Hayden, Champion introduce legislation to address health disparities


eputy Majority Leader Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) and Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) have introduced legislation to address alarming health disparities in the African American community. The authors have introduced three major pieces of legislation: SF1871 Partnerships for Healthy Futures a grant program to build community services and providers in order to identify, coordinate and expand opportunities for improving health outcomes for communities of color, SF1701 which will require health insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screenings for high risk populations, and SF1836 which will study and provide recommendations to decrease menthol cigarette usage by African Americans. 

“People of color, especially African Americans and American Indians, suffer from unique health disparities compared to the broader population,” Hayden said. “This package of bills focuses on intervention and prevention of some of the chronic challenges facing our constituents. Now is the time for action, it is time we pass legislation that gets at the entrenched causes and systemic inequity which has allowed our communities to suffer too long.”

“We have studied the disparities facing African American and American Indian populations again and again. I am looking forward to moving from discussion to action with these bills to address higher rates of cancer, assistance and resources for improving health outcomes, and discovering the root causes of extremely high rates of menthol cigarette smoking among African Americans,” Champion said. “Sen. Hayden and I will continue to work on strategies to end other existing challenges facing our communities.”

Partnerships for Healthy Futures, SF1871 grants will support existing community health facilitators coordinate across agencies and systems to develop and implement strategies to improve health outcomes for communities of color.

Organizations such as Stairstep Foundation and Minneapolis Urban League and facilities like North Point Health and Wellness Center and South Side Health Center have existing, small-scale programs to coordinate across the board needs for families. Expanding these programs and encouraging new programs to use data-supported strategies creates a streamlined and accessible system of support for families and children living in poverty.

A 2014 study by Dr. Charles Rogers of the University of Minnesota found that the death rates of African American men with colorectal cancer is 50 percent higher than White men. SF1701 would expand insurance coverage requirements for colorectal screening tests for high risk communities – including African Americans and American Indians – starting at age 45. One of the greatest barriers for African American and American Indian communities is the ability to pay for a screening; The National Cancer Institute recommends regular screenings as the most effective way to prevent colorectal cancer. With one of the higher rates of survival, colorectal cancer is considered preventable if symptoms are caught early. Awareness is a critical first step toward health, which is why in February Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed March Colorectal Cancer Awareness month.

In 2014 according to Legacy for Health almost one in five, or 19 percent, of African Americans smoke menthol cigarettes, and of African Americans who smoke 84.5 percent smoke menthol cigarettes. SF1836 directs the Department of Health to study African American attitudes and beliefs surrounding menthol cigarettes and to develop recommendations and education strategies for reducing the usage of menthol cigarettes among African Americans.

African American and American Indian communities face health challenges at higher rates than the rest of Minnesota. Sen. Hayden and Sen. Champion will continue to focus on the root causes of these challenges and work to correct the systemic barriers to positive health outcomes experience by communities of color in Minnesota.