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The impact of sequestration on the health and well-being of communities of color

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, Feb. 28, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies hosted a discussion about the impact of the federal sequestration on programs of importance to communities of color.

Four panelists shared insights into the impact of the sequestration on programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Head Start; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); HIV prevention and testing; and programs that provide low-income, uninsured and underinsured women access to breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic testing, among others.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy priorities, while 37 percent of Americans belong to racial or ethnic minorities, minorities make up 71 percent of three- and four-year-olds below the poverty line, who are targeted by Head Start, 58 percent of households receiving government rent subsidies, and 68 percent of participants in SNAP and WIC. The Joint Center‘s Health Policy Institute reported that the sequestration will result in 600,000 women, infants and children losing WIC services, 70,000 children losing access to Head Start programs, 900,000 fewer patients served by community health centers, 25,000 fewer cancer screenings and 424,000 fewer HIV tests being covered by CDC funds. In addition, the sequester is expected to cut the EPA’s Tribal Assistance Program by nearly 50 percent.

Panelists shared that sequestration will likely aggravate existing racial and ethnic health disparities, and increase the burden of disease – a burden that an earlier Joint Center study documented as costing the nation $1.24 trillion over four years. Sequestration therefore could increase health care costs, increase the number of Americans who require disability assistance and reduce overall economic productivity.

Panelists included Ellen Nissenbaum, senior vice president for government affairs, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Liany Elba Arroyo, associate director, Education and Children’s Policy Project, National Council of La Raza; Amber D. Ebarb, program manager, Policy Research Center, National Congress of American Indians; Priscilla Huang, JD, policy director, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum and Brian Smedley, Ph.D., vice president and director, Joint Center Health Policy Institute.

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