From National Negro Health Week to National Minority Health Month: 100 Years of Public Health Evolution

The year 2015 marks the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of National Negro Health Week by Dr. Booker T. Washington.  Washington recognized the need to bring modern public health to impoverished black communities, and successfully launched the Health Improvement Week in April 1915.  This movement combined health and sanitation efforts with sermons, education, and rallies and a call to health officials to improve the health of minorities.

National Negro Health Week was observed annually until 1951.  It ended not because its momentum faded, but because in a move towards integration, the US Public Health Service closed of the Office of Negro Health. Throughout its successful 35-year history, National Negro Health Week retained its commitment to community-based, comprehensive health promotion.  The movement flourished under a community mobilization approach that is mirrored in contemporary community-based engagement efforts.  It remains one of the longest-running public health campaigns in US history.

Washington’s advocacy for minority health paved the way for the establishment of federal offices, centers, and institutes dedicated to the improvement of minority health.

2015 is also the 30th Anniversary since the landmark 1985 Report of the Secretary’s task Force on Black and Minority Health, or the “Heckler Report”, an eight-volume report documenting, for the first time, the existence of health disparities between racial and ethnic minorities and whites. 

Over the past 100 and 30 years, African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities have seen great improvements in their health and quality of life.  Yet the persistence of significant disparities in health highlights the progress that has yet to be made.  In this 100th year since the launch of National Negro Health Week we commemorate Washington’s efforts to improve minority health and recommit to eliminating health disparities and achieving health equity.


 
April 17, 2015 / ​Atlanta, GA 
Booker T Washington Negro Health Week 100 year celebration, CDC and Tuskegee University Center for Bioethics.

In celebration of 100th Anniversary of the establishment of National Negro Health Week and the 30th Anniversary of the release of the Heckler Report, Tuskegee University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and CDC will sponsor a health summit - "National Negro Health Week to National Minority Health Month: 100 Years of Moving Public Health Forward” on April 17, 2015.

For more information on National Negro Health Week:

Read the article by Sandra Quinn and Stephen Thomas in Minority Health TodayThe National Negro Health Week, 1915 to 1951: A Descriptive Account.

Read the article by Sandra Quinn in Minority Health TodayThe National Negro Health Movement: Lessons for Eliminating Health Disparities Today.

Visit Tuskegee University, National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care.