The Office of Minority Health (OMH) was established in early 1991 by Dr. Joycelyn M. Elders, Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) Director from 1986-1993. Dr. Elders voiced her concerns regarding the disparities in health status specifically in minority populations with the Arkansas Legislature resulting in the passing of (Act 912) July 1991 which created the Arkansas Minority Health Commission. Christine Patterson, MSW, LCSW was named the Director of OMH in 1993 where she served for 19 years until her retirement in 2010. Dr. Fay Boozman, ADH Director from 1999-2005 placed the OMH in a strategic position under the Office of the Director to ensure services would integrate and cut across all of ADH’s Centers. The ADH and State Health Officer desired the office be more aligned with the Agency Programs, therefore Christine Patterson recommended changing the name from the Office of Minority Health to Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (OMHHD). Additionally, an advisory committee with representatives from each Center in ADH who are advocates for the OMHHD in their respective areas was established.
OMHHD’s new Director is Michelle R. Smith, PhD, MPH. Other staff members consist of two Health Program Specialists, a Grants Analyst and an Administrative Specialist. Staff is aligned with ADH programs to provide technical assistance and guidance as ADH works toward eliminating health disparities in Arkansas.
The Office works closely with the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, which was established by legislation in July 1991 (Act 912). The Arkansas Minority Health Commission works toward assuring that all minority Arkansans’ access to health care is equal to the care provided to other citizens of the state and toward seeking ways to provide education, address, treat and prevent diseases and conditions that are prevalent among minority populations. The commission is a freestanding legislative entity, reporting to the Governor’s Office and collaborating with OMHHD on many initiatives.