By Melissa Hansen

While Americans as a group are healthier and living longer, disparities in health and access to health care persist.

For example, African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are more than three times as likely to receive the same diagnosis. Latinos are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from liver cancer. 

Some hopeful trends are emerging. The gap in life expectancy between African Americans and non-Hispanic whites has been closing, and is now the smallest it’s been since these statistics have been tracked. Additionally, seasonal flu vaccination coverage has tripled for children over the past four years and has contributed to a reduction in vaccination disparities among minority children. 

State legislators are working this year to take greater steps to advance health equity. This year, 27 states and D.C. have considered 22 bills or resolutions and eight bills have been adopted to date. Examples of successful bills include:

  • HB 459 in Maryland expands the scope of the Maryland Loan Assistance Repayment Program for Physicians to provide education loan repayments to physician assistants who provide primary care in designated professional shortage areas under specified circumstances.
  • HR 8075 in Rhode Island expands the definition of "primary care" to include women's health and proclaimed the month of April 2014 to be “Community Health Workers Month.”

View the NCSL page tracking this legislation 

Melissa Hansen is a program principal in NCSL's Health Program.

Email Melissa


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