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The National Minority Quality Forum: Achieving a better understanding of health disparities that negatively impact our communities

In 1998, the National Minority Quality Forum (Forum) was established with the goal to achieve a better understanding of health disparities that negatively impact all communities.  To realize this, over the last 20 years, the Forum has been thoughtful in its approach to improve health disparities and create better outcomes.  The organization has collected and analyzed billions of patient records—long before data was the most valuable commodity out there.  It has used this unique data to help perform analysis for everyone from public servants to pastors to give them a better understanding of the health and welfare of the communities they serve.

Dr. Gary Puckrein, the organization’s President, Founder and CEO was able to quickly find success by cobbling together the most unlikely partners.  “I knew I needed something—event, program, legislation— to let people know about and recognize the problem of health disparities.  I worked with the Clinton Administration, the Congressional Black Caucus and then Speaker Newt Gingrich to establish April as National Minority Health Month.”

That recognition of a Minority Health Month gave the organization and platform to do the research and bring minority heath and health disparities to the forefront. With the establishment of April as National Minority Health month by the U.S. Congress, Dr. Puckrein and his team had all they needed to begin doing official studies on diseases that specifically impacted minorities.  “After we were successful in establishing the month, we were better able to create partnerships with a number of people in health care and delve into the real impact of health disparities.  Under the leadership of our Research Director, Dr. Liou Xu, data is analyzed down to the zip code level.  We can tell you how any number of diseases specifically impact your community down to the zip code,” stated Dr. Puckrein.

The Forum was and still is in a unique space for health services stakeholders.  As one of only a handful of organizations with the resources and expertise to focus on the overall health of the new majority, the Forum is the go-to organization for policymakers for research and analysis of legislative and regulatory responses to systemic challenges in the public and private sectors, and for the data analysis and advocacy for employers, industry, academic and government entities.  For example, the Forum is partnering with the National Institutes of Health All of Us Research Program’s effort to engage organizations that not only have the capacity but also the credibility to inform communities and providers about the potential of All of Us to advance healthcare in the U.S..  “The Forum’s mission and values assign a high priority to improving the quality of research and evidence available to improve healthcare processes and outcomes for all populations in the United States, with particular emphasis on those populations that are historically underrepresented in biomedical research,” stated Gretchen C. Wartman, the Forum’s Vice President of Policy and Programs.

15 years ago, the Forum established the Annual Summit on Health Disparities. This annual summit aims to assist health care providers, professionals, administrators, researchers, policy makers, community and faith-based organizations in delivering quality care to diverse populations.  With nearly 1000 attendees annually, the Summit has educated thousands of health leaders.  Health executive Ravyn Miller stated, “At this year’s summit alone, I was able to hear from not only the Presidents of the Medical Societies but the icons like John Lewis, Maxine Waters, Merck’s Chairman Kenneth Frazier and the Surgeon General.  It’s a truly a testament of the great work of the Forum that so many successful leaders attend the Summit.”

In 2016, the Forum’s Chief Operating Officer Brandon Garrett worked to create the Top 40 Under 40 Leaders in Health Awards.  “I wanted a way to recognize more young leaders in health care and also get them involved with folks at the Forum.  There are so many smart and talented minority leaders out there and I just wanted a way to honor them.”  So far, there are three 40 Under 40 classes who have done everything from run and sell health care companies to serve as medical directors for organizations.  Brandon added, “We are now working with many of them and making certain they are involved bettering the Forum.”

As the National Minority Quality Forum finishes it’s 20th year, there are many more goals that it hopes to accomplish.  Overall, Dr. Puckrein wants to continue to work to build sustainable healthy communities and work to do outreach within communities.  However, he remains extremely proud of what his organization has accomplished, “I never imagined that I would have created an organization that has done so much to help better communities.  And hopefully, we can do just as much—if not more—over the next 20 years.”

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