Padilla Introduces Bill to Promote Health Equity and Inclusion for MENA Community
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) announced the Health Equity and Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Community Inclusion Act, legislation that would help make sure the federal government accurately recognizes the experiences and needs of members of MENA communities. This bill would help make them eligible for targeted minority public health programs and resources. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.-12), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.-06), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.-16) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.-02) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Every individual deserves access to high quality and affordable health care, but the federal government has consistently failed to adequately address the unique health needs of many racial and ethnic minority groups like Middle Eastern and North African communities,” said Senator Padilla. “California is home to the largest MENA population in the United States, and I am proud to introduce this legislation to finally ensure they get the recognition and resources they deserve. This bill also supports targeted government research into health outcomes for MENA populations so we can continue to break down historical health inequities.”
“For too long, Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) populations have been unrecognized and underserved by the federal government, perpetuating racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes,” said Maha Freij, CEO & President of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS). “The Health Equity and MENA Community Inclusion Act would enable the Health and Human Services Department to provide better healthcare services to MENA populations, including the Arab American community. It would also require HHS to conduct a first-of-its-kind health survey of MENA populations, allowing the government to improve their understanding of the health conditions facing all minority populations. On behalf of the National Network for Arab American Communities, we thank Senator Padilla for his leadership in introducing this transformative piece of legislation.”
Specifically, the Health Equity and Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Community Inclusion Act would amend the Public Health Service Act of 1944 by adding “Middle Easterners and North Africans’ to the definition of ‘racial and ethnic minority groups” at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, making MENA individuals and communities eligible for resources targeted toward historically marginalized groups. These resources and programs — which MENA communities have not been able to fully access because the federal government often incorrectly categorizes them as “white” — are specifically designed to address the negative public health impacts experienced by many in historically marginalized communities and are key to improving health outcomes and general quality of life.
Additionally, the bill directs the federal government to undertake a comprehensive study of the unique health patterns and outcomes of MENA populations to make up for the historic lack of public health research on the communities. It also aims to ensure that the federal government is specifically considering how MENA communities’ health is impacted in various ways and would provide guidance to the Department of Health and Human Services to proactively incorporate recognition of “Middle Easterners and North Africans” into their implementation of existing programs that rely upon the definition of “racial and ethnic minority groups.” The bill also expresses to Congress that funds authorized for programs should be increased to account for the unique health needs of “Middle Easterners or North Africans” alongside those of all other racial and ethnic minority groups.
The Health Equity and MENA Community Inclusion Act is endorsed by organizations including ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), The National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), Access California Services, American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, National Health Law Program, National Immigration Law Center, National Partnership for Women & Families, the Arc of the United States and many more.
A one-pager of the bill is available here.
Full text of the bill is available here.