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Evaluating Federal Support of Communities Combating Health Disparities

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health (OMH) contracted with Community Science to conduct a multi-year process and outcome evaluation of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA). The NPA is a strategy designed to mobilize a nationwide, comprehensive, community-driven approach to combating racial and ethnic health disparities. The mission of the NPA is to increase the effectiveness of programs that target the elimination of health disparities through the coordination of stakeholders committed to action. The NPA is composed of a Federal Interagency Health Equity Team (FIHET), ten Regional Health Equity Councils (RHECs), funded partners, and state partners that are composed of State Offices of Minority Health and directors of local health departments. 

Now in its fourth year of implementation, the NPA Evaluation Team from Community Science has tracked the growth of the NPA and documented its early influence. A natural experiment in collaboration, the NPA is showing how community-level knowledge can inform federal programs in order to maximize their effectiveness. For example, the evaluation suggested that RHEC members’ knowledge of community social structures improved the reach and effectiveness of Affordable Care Act outreach and education efforts, leading to greater success during the first open enrollment season. Through their work on the RHECs, members were able to identify community-level needs, such as the need to build underserved populations’ literacy in health insurance utilization, and not just in insurance enrollment. RHEC members also identified the need for culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and education strategies to level the playing field for vulnerable communities that may lack resources needed to make informed decisions regarding their health insurance.

“[Community Science] is flexible and willing to work with us when new opportunities and challenges arise. They have done an excellent job in balancing all the different moving parts of the work, including evaluation and other related activities, in support of the NPA,” stated an OMH representative.

Community Science staff led the effort to document and assess the effectiveness of outreach and education strategies conducted by RHEC members. Based on the initial findings, Community Science is working with OMH to bring effective outreach and education strategies to scale, identify best practices in additional communities, and document remaining unmet needs in diverse communities across the country.

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