After years of observing poorer health for blacks and other minorities in comparison to whites, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Margaret Heckler, commissioned a task force in 1984 to describe these health results more fully and to consider what the federal government could do to address them. The Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health surveyed HHS agencies to identify what they were already doing to focus on improving the health of minority populations, and consulted with outside experts in minority health to gain a better understanding of the factors that affected disease risk and improvement of health for minorities. The Secretary released the Task Force’s report in October, 1985, making this the first time that the federal government provided such a national picture.
The Task Force defined minorities as blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian/Pacific Islanders. It paid particular attention to the higher death rates of blacks and other minorities in comparison to whites, noting that there were 59,000 greater deaths for blacks per year, higher than for any other racial or ethnic group.
The Secretary established in that same year the Office of Minority Affairs within HHS to coordinate the implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations. Since the publication of The Heckler Report, we are able to describe more fully the health of all Americans.