Ralph Fuccillo, President, DentaQuest Foundation
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Martin Luther King Jr., 1966.
When the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C. this October 16th, America will celebrate the inclusive and powerful legacy that constituted Dr. King’s overall dream for justice. This occasion has prompted me to reflect on opportunities to add a voice to this national moment of hope that keeps Dr. King’s dream alive.
Within all the memorable words of Dr. King, those spoken on the subject of health care and inequality resound in my mind most strongly. Throughout a career dedicated to prevention and public health, I have come upon too many situations where life’s odds are stacked against those in greatest need and people who are dealing with chronic illness in our communities. When I think that we have not solved “the most shocking and inhumane forms of inequality” in the 45 years since Dr. King made this claim, I know that our work is nowhere near completed.
We are moving forward with tremendous opportunities in the era of health care reform and when the value of collaboration is being recognized as a powerful method for better decision making in many sectors. I have witnessed many examples of how changes in the conditions in which people live are making a tremendous difference in reducing inequalities. These include investments to increase access to healthy fresh foods, investments in safe places to exercise and play, and investments in community supports to navigate options for health care.
The occasion to memorialize Dr. King’s legacy is an excellent one to promote effective leadership across all sectors-- business, government and philanthropy -- to create pathways for health equity. A new program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) encourages such collaboration. The National Partnership for Action (NPA) to End Health Disparities provides opportunities to engage in Health Equity Councils in all ten regions across the United States. Each council is engaging community-based leader across health, business, philanthropy and community to move the dial on health equity through better collaboration among stakeholders and more effective use of public and private resources to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.
No one sector can create the conditions for better health alone. It takes a cohesive and inclusive national strategy that leverages layers of public and private sector investments and creates critical partnerships. I am honored to represent oral health and philanthropy on the Region I Health Equity Council and invite others to learn more about the Councils and to get involved.
The dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial this month reminds our nation of its commitment to ensuring equality for all. For me it is an opportunity to highlight the important efforts of the many people and organizations working for equal access to quality health care.