Be the Source for Better Health

Posted on May 7, 2024 by CAPT Tarsha Cavanaugh, Ph.D., M.S.W., LGSW, Principal Deputy Director, HHS Office of Minority Health 

Note: This blog was originally published on NIMHD Insights, the official blog of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). 

Photo of the author, CAPT Tarsha Cavanaugh, Ph.D., M.S.W., LGSW, Principal Deputy Director, HHS Office of Minority Health, in uniform.

We are nearing the end of National Minority Health Month (NMHM), an annual observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH). NMHM is a time for us all to reflect on the role we can play in advancing health equity and eliminating health disparities in racial and ethnic minority and American Indian/Alaska Native populations. 

This year the theme Be the Source for Better Health:Improving Health Outcomes Through Our Cultures, Communities, and Connections, emphasizes the role social determinants of health (SDOH), cultural competency, and humility play in advancing health equity. 

At OMH we are committed to furthering this effort by providing resources that support federal and community-based partners’ provision of quality, equitable, and respectful care and services that acknowledge the diverse cultural beliefs, practices, and linguistic preferences among the populations we serve. 

But let’s talk more about what health disparities are and how you can Be the Source for Better Health in your community. 

The 5 domains of social determinants of health as represented by Healthy People 2030. Education Access and Quality, Health Care Access and Quality, Neighborhood and Built Environment, Social and Community Context, Economic Stability.

Understand Health Disparities 

Health disparities among minority communities are persistent and multifaceted. We define them as “differences in health that are closely linked to the social determinants of health (SDOH).” SDOH are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. 

One of the many ways OMH works to address these disparities is through the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care. The Standards are a roadmap for improving the quality of care by providing equitable, understandable, and respectful care and services that pay keen attention to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and communication styles. 

By tailoring services to an individual's cultural and language preferences, you can help bring about positive health outcomes for diverse populations. 

Be a Wellness Champion

A community health worker tests her patient’s blood sugar at their home.

Wellness Champions are federal and community partners committed to addressing the root causes of health disparities while advancing holistic approaches to achieve optimal health within racial and ethnic minority and American Indian/Alaska Native communities. Through education, outreach, and policy advocacy, they serve as trusted messengers empowering individuals to take charge of their health and navigate healthcare systems effectively. 

One type of Wellness Champion OMH supports is Community Health Workers (CHWs). CHWs often live within the communities they serve and broaden community connections to valuable health resources. They advocate for specific population needs (i.e., housing, food security), coordinate care at all levels, provide basic health screenings, and much more. 

While CHWs are a great example of Wellness Champions, it is important to remember that anyone can be a Wellness Champion committed to promoting good health habits with your friends, family, and local community. 

Embrace Self-Care and Self-Compassion

A diverse group of adults join together for an exercise class outside.

Encouraging self-care and self-compassion in both the populations we serve but also for ourselves is also an important element of achieving health equity. But equally as important is understanding that we all have unique health needs when it comes to these practices. Each person’s ‘healthiest self’ is different and influenced by SDOH. 

Take the time to reflect on your personal wellness in areas such as your lived environment, relationships, and emotional health. Utilize resources like the NIH Your Healthiest Self: Wellness Toolkits to embrace self-care while navigating your whole-health journey and encourage others to do the same. Better understanding the knowledge gaps in our own health empowers us to seek out resources or trusted partners that can help improve our health status. 

Embracing self-care or compassion practices, through activities such as mindfulness, exercise, or creative expression has the potential to nurture resilience and improve your well-being. 


National Minority Health Month calls upon us to recognize the intersecting factors that contribute to poor health outcomes and work to overcome these barriers. When all receive quality, equitable, and respectful care and services that are responsive to our cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, economic and environmental circumstances, and health literacy levels, the health and well-being of our families, communities and nation will soar. 

Let’s keep working together in NMHM and beyond to Be the Source for Better Health for populations we serve by advancing sustainable policies, programs, and practices that work towards eliminating health disparities and prioritize the achievement of health equity. 


CAPT Tarsha Cavanaugh, Ph.D., M.S.W., LGSW, is Principal Deputy Director at the Office of Minority Health.