The Vermont Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (OMHHD) was established in June 1992 by order of the Commissioner of Health in response to community requests. The Vermont Department of Health (VDH) in Vermont is headed by the Commissioner of Health and is one of the departments within the Agency of Human Services, which is headed by the Secretary of Human Services. Within VDH there is a Deputy Commissioner for Public Health and a Deputy Commissioner for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs. The Director of Planning also acts as Director of Minority Health and reports to the Deputy Commissioner for Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
The mission of the Vermont Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities
(VT-OMHHD) is to reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities through partnership, education, and advocacy. The Office’s vision is to improve the health status of racial and ethnic populations so they can lead healthier lives.
The activities in the OMHHD are based on the following values:
· Access – We will support public and private initiatives that guarantee equal healthcare access and treatment, regardless of race, culture, or belief system;
· Cultural Sensitivity – We will respect the diverse knowledge, experiences, and traditions of our community members, and promote understanding and trust of every culture’s perspective across all health delivery systems;
· Collaboration – We will engage communities and individuals in planning and implementation to achieve equitable public health for all Vermonters;
· Integrity – We will work with our partners in an atmosphere of honesty, fairness, and respect, and we will meet the highest ethical and professional standards;
· Responsibility – We will establish trust with our partners by integrating their voices and needs into our activities and track our progress on measurable objectives; and
· Empowerment – We will promote effective citizen participation in the identification of health disparities, the development of solutions that address the unique needs of their community, and local leadership that sustains progress.
Each program office at the Vermont Department of Health creates and administers its own health disparities interventions and activities in response to inequities encountered in their respective focus areas.
The VDH is developing a strategic plan and has identified the Health Equity for All Vermonters as one of its goals. It is expected that the development of indicators against which to measure our success will move VDH toward mainstreaming evaluation efforts across programs for the elimination of health disparities among Vermont’s most vulnerable communities including minority groups and communities of color.
Vermont established a State Refugee Coordinator and State Plan for Refugee Resettlement in 1980 that coordinates resources for resettlement and service delivery for refugees in Vermont. The State also facilitated the creation of the VDH Refugee Health Coordinator, Refugee and Immigrant Services Providers Network, and a Limited English Proficiency Committee at the Agency for Human Services to better serve refugees and others with limited English capabilities. The Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs protects and strengthens Native American heritage and advocates for their needs in Vermont.
MH/HD activities are conducted and coordinated across many VDH program offices. VDH maintains partnerships with an array of entities active in MH/HD, including local health departments, community based/non-profit organizations, and clinical networks.
The Vermont Department of Health (VDH) has developed a strategic plan for minority health that directs its efforts to eliminating racial/ethnic health disparities in the State. It is structured around the following goals:
Goal 1: Build health disparities organizational structure and capacity.
Tracking Methods: Establishment of an MH/HD budget; designation of a ‘home’ for MH/HD coordination at VDH; identification of grant funding sources for Vermont’s MH/HD activities; participation on Governor’s Workforce Equity and Diversity Council; incorporation of workforce diversity issues into VDH annual report; and development of plan to increase diversity of state’s health care workforce; development of marketing plan for the VDH loan repayment program at minority colleges and universities.
Goal 2: Improve health disparities data quality, collection and reporting.
Tracking Methods: Creation of a racial and ethnic health data collection plan; production of Vermont Minority Health Status Report.
Goal 3: Support cultural competency training.
Tracking Methods: Adaptation of NACCHO tools and internal dialogue process at VDH for addressing health disparities; creation of standards, guidelines and technical assistance for cultural competency in health care training; identification of toolkits, trainers and potential health care entities for cultural competency training; bi-monthly VDH meetings with State Refugee Coordinator and Limited English Proficiency Committee; number of VDH initiatives that target racial/ethnic minority populations; creation of a VDH racial/ethnic social marketing plan; and yearly discussion/presentation with executive leadership regarding VDH health disparities plan and activities.
Goal 4: Increase access to preventive and treatment services for racial/ethnic minorities.
Tracking Methods: Number of racial/ethnic minority representatives involved in VDH planning and program implementation, and incorporation of racial/ethnic health disparities goals in the Department of Mental Health strategic planning.
Goal 5: Enhance community development and leadership.
Tracking Methods: Provision of health information at organizations serving racial/ethnic minorities; creation of resource directory for racial/ethnic minority health services; and execution of biennial Minority Health Summit.
In FY09, Vermont began the production of a statewide report on health disparities. It is hoped that this report can revitalize discussions about how to eliminate health disparities within the department, among vulnerable groups, and across the state. The report will be published in December, 2009. In addition, discussions have begun with loan repayment programs to move forward on the marketing plan for loan repayment at minority colleges and universities.
The office provides no direct health care services. The office expenditures were:
Although the VDH does not allocate financial resources specifically for state MH/HD activities, it does support MH/HD activities through the budgets of its public health divisions where MH/HD activities are conducted. VDH also provides monies to local health departments to support their health disparities efforts. Specific financial data on VDH MH/HD funding streams were not available.
Financial support for Vermont’s Minority Health Strategic Plan is being discussed with the HHS Office of Minority Health and Region I Office of Minority Health. The VDH OMHHD was recently accepted to participate in the HHS National Partnership for Action to Eliminate Health Disparities. Participation in this partnership will provide additional support for the OMH Strategic Plan implementation.
The Vermont Office of Minority Health is led by the Director of Planning who is also acts as Director of Minority Health.
The OMHHD Strategic Plan - www.healthvermont.gov