The mission of The Arkansas Minority Health Commission is to ensure all minority Arkansans access to health care that is equal to the care provided to other citizens of the state and to seek ways to provide education, address issues and prevent diseases and conditions that are prevalent among minority populations.
AMHC’s vision is that all minority Arkansans have equal access to quality health and preventive care.
The goal of the Arkansas Minority Health Commission is to be a catalyst in bridging the gap in the health status of the minority population and that of the majority population in Arkansas. To achieve this goal, the commission focuses on addressing existing disparities in minority communities, educating these communities on healthier lifestyles, promoting awareness of services and accessibility within our current health care system, and making recommendations to relevant agencies, the Governor and to the state legislature.
The Arkansas Minority Health Commission (AMHC) was established through Act 912 of 1991, initiated by lead sponsor (then) Senator Bill Lewellen. It was the culmination of work begun through the leadership of Dr. Jocelyn Elders (Director of the Arkansas Department of Health and State Public Health Officer at the time) and the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus. The Act specified that the AMHC would:
Study issues relating to the delivery of and access to health services for minorities in Arkansas
Identify any gaps in the health service delivery system that particularly affect minorities
Make recommendations to relevant agencies and to the legislature for improving the delivery of and access to health services for minorities
Study and make recommendations as to whether adequate services are available to ensure future minority health needs will be met.
Two key pieces of legislation were enacted in the 2009 session of the Arkansas General Assembly. The first, Act 358, specifically charges the AMHC with developing, implementing, maintaining, and disseminating a comprehensive survey of racial and ethnic minority disparities in health and health care. The Act specifies that the study is to be repeated every five years and that the commission will subsequently publish evidence-based data, define state goals and objectives, and develop pilot projects for decreasing disparities. In addition, the Act makes explicit an expectation that the AMHC will, on or before October 1 each year, report to the Governor and legislative leadership (including chairs of the House and Senate Committees on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor), providing a summary of the commission’s work over the year, a description of reductions in disparities, and an outline of the commission’s planned work for the coming year.
In addition, Act 574 of 2009 modified the governance structure for the Commission and expanded and clarified its duties. (See appendix for full versions of Acts 912, 358, and 574).