State Minority Health Officers’ Perceptions of their Successes and Barriers to Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

Aaron J. Diehr, Timothy R. Jordan, James H. Price, Jiunn Jye Sheu, Joseph A. Dake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Minimal research has been conducted to examine the impact and reach of state offices of minority health (SOMH) and their role in reducing racial and ethnic health disparities within their states. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to describe the shared experiences of SOMH officers to provide context for why these individuals believe that state organizational efforts have not yielded much success in reducing racial and ethnic health disparity gaps. Methods: Using a telephone interview guide, the investigators conducted telephone interviews with SOMH officers. Data were analyzed thematically based on emergent patterns in participant responses. A total of 47 of 50 state officers (94%) completed the interview. Results: Though many officers were encouraged by increased awareness regarding health disparities, nearly every officer listed inadequate resources as the most impactful barrier impeding the success of their offices’ missions. Conclusion: SOMH continue to be severely underfunded and are concerned about their potential for success, leaving them with minimal ability to engage in activities beyond educational awareness campaigns. For SOMH officers to be successful in eliminating disparities, legislators must provide them with adequate funding so they can engage in wider-reaching interventions targeting the social determinants of health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-670
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of racial and ethnic health disparities
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
One of the major impediments to forming collaborative partnerships outside the traditional domain of public health is that many individuals, both within and outside of the governmental structure, do not understand that health disparities must be addressed by more than just the health department. For example, most of the collaborative efforts of SOMH primarily focused on specific types of community-level partnerships, linking local organizations with resources and technical assistance needed to apply for grants. While this type of technical assistance is helpful, it has limited power to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities over time. Many grant funded initiatives are “top-down” in approach (i.e., those who write the grant often direct the grant’s activities), and grant funding is intermittent. Those using traditional top-down approaches to grant funded interventions rarely involve community members in the program planning, grant writing, implementation, management, and evaluation phases of the program. Resultantly, these approaches typically fail to build capacity in the minority priority population to take charge of their own health and communities.

Funding Information:
This study was funded entirely by the principal investigator.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute.


  • Health disparities
  • Minority health
  • Social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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