U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-13th District), Debbie Dingell (D-12th District), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), and Robin Kelly (IL-02) recently presented Health Equity and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Community Inclusion Act of 2022, legislation that will help ensure that the experiences and needs of the MENA community are reflected in the federal government’s focus on public health. The introduction of the bill comes as Arab-American Heritage Month comes to an end.
“There are negative impacts on service delivery when people who are part of the Middle Eastern and North African community are categorized as ‘white’ or ‘other,'” Tlaib said. “This includes prevention and public health research as well as the US census. With the MENA Health Equity and Community Inclusion Act, residents of the MENA region will finally see their true identity reflected in our nation’s public health system. This is critical to providing culturally appropriate services, which is key to addressing the negative public health impacts experienced by many members of the MENA community due to systemic marginalization.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Health Equity and Community Inclusion Act would amend the Public Health Services Act of 1944 by adding “Middle Easterners and Northerners -Africans” to the definition of “racial and ethnic minority groups”, making individuals and communities in the MENA region eligible for the first time for resources aimed at historically marginalized groups. These resources and programs – which the MENA community has not been able to access because the federal government still incorrectly categorizes them as “white” – are specifically designed to address the negative public health impacts experienced by many historically marginalized communities. and are essential for improving health outcomes and overall quality of life.
This bill seeks to ensure that the federal government specifically examines how the health of the MENA region is affected in various ways and would provide guidance to HHS to proactively incorporate recognition of “Middle Easterners and North Africans.” in their implementation of existing programs that rely on the definition. racial and ethnic minority groups.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the huge inequities in our healthcare system,” Dingell said. “If we want to close these gaps, we need to better understand the needs of every community across our country. The MENA Health Equity and Community Inclusion Act takes a long-awaited step to help our federal agencies better understand the specific health needs of our neighbors in the Middle East and South Africa. North and will help ensure that language and cultural barriers do not impede access. to proper care. This legislation is exactly what we need to move closer to health equity for all.
This bill will help ensure that the MENA community is accurately reflected and not obscured. In addition, the bill expresses Congress’s sentiment that funds authorized for programs should be increased to accommodate the unique health needs of “Middle Easterners or North Africans” alongside those of all other population groups. racial and ethnic minorities. This bill comes as efforts continue to add the MENA region as a racial and ethnic group to the United States Census. Although a nonpartisan study group recommended adding the designation, the Trump administration declined to do so for the 2020 census.
In the absence of federally led or supported research focused on MENA community health, the National Network of Arab American Communities (NNAAC) conducted a review of the available literature on MENA health outcomes and found that Arab Americans have a lower life expectancy than non-Arab, non-Hispanic whites in Michigan; and that in studies done in Detroit, Arab Americans reported higher rates of various forms of cancer. These disparities testify to a great need for specific services and targeted research at the federal level. The full NNAAC report can be found here.
“For too long, members of the Middle Eastern and North African, or MENA, community have been underserved by the federal statistical system, resulting in the persistence of health disparities across racial and ethnic backgrounds,” said Rima Meroueh, director of the National Network. for Arab-American communities. “At the same time, communities across the MENA region have experienced systemic exclusion from established pathways for community support. This exclusion is particularly prominent within the public health service, where Congress has authorized a variety of programs to address minority health issues. By providing for equitable inclusion of “Middle Easterners and North Africans” in programs for minorities, the MENA Health Equity and Community Inclusion Act of 2022 will ensure that these programs can achieve the entire minority health landscape. NNAAC and the communities we serve applaud Congressmen Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, Robin Kelly and Anna Eshoo for their leadership on issues of health equity and the MENA region.
Source: Rashida Tlaib