Health Equity: Lawmakers Push for MENA Inclusion in Federal Health Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation introduced by U.S. Senators and Representatives aims to improve the standards for race and ethnicity data collection and inclusion for Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) communities. The lawmakers commended the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its efforts to update these standards.

The newly revised data standards set by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) now include a MENA category, allowing for more detailed data collection on racial and ethnic subgroups. This update will help address specific health care needs more effectively for underserved populations.

Despite this progress, MENA communities still encounter challenges in accessing healthcare. Organizations representing these communities have often been excluded from federal programs due to the lack of proper data representation. To address these disparities, lawmakers are calling for MENA to be recognized as a “racial and ethnic minority group,” granting them access to targeted federal programming.

In response to the OMB directive, the lawmakers are urging HHS to ensure that federal programs critical to improving health outcomes are fully accessible to MENA populations. Senator Padilla introduced the Health Equity and Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Community Inclusion Act, along with other legislators, to address the needs and experiences of MENA communities.

The National Network for Arab American Communities praised the advocacy of Senator Padilla and his colleagues, emphasizing the importance of federal data collection updates in promoting equity in public health programs. Recognizing the role of race, ethnicity, language, and culture in shaping health outcomes is crucial in creating more effective and fair health policies for diverse communities.

Moving forward, the lawmakers are working to enhance HHS’s Agency Action Plan to comply with the updated OMB standards, pushing for the inclusion of MENA as a “racial and ethnic minority group.” By accurately representing MENA communities in data collection, it will lead to better understanding of health trends, disparities, and unique needs among minority populations.

The commitment of lawmakers and advocacy groups to ensure the inclusion of MENA communities in federal health programs will contribute to more equitable health policymaking and improved access to healthcare services. The ongoing efforts to evolve data collection standards reflect a dedication to meeting the diverse needs of all Americans.