May 7, 2013
One in a series spotlighting African Americans who are playing an integral part in implementing the historic Affordable Care Act.
Meet Acacia Bamberg Salatti, acting director of the Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (the Partnership Center). Appointed by the White House to HHS in 2009, Salatti focuses on minority-health outreach and strategies for reducing health disparities.
Explain your role in implementing the Affordable Care Act.
I help ensure that faith and community leaders are involved in the process. We know that faith leaders play an integral role as trusted messengers in their community. My job is to make sure that these stakeholders are a part of the process. That means making sure that faith leaders are able to educate their communities. It also means letting them know about the resources that will be coming down the pike that can help them provide information to their communities or congregation.
What's your favorite feature of the Affordable Care Act as it relates to Blacks or marginalized people?
What I find most exciting is the transformational way that Medicaid expansion is going to change primary health care in vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities. This means that if you're making $15,000 or less, under the Affordable Care Act you now are able to get Medicaid. It doesn't matter if you are a woman or man, or if you have a child or not.
So many people in our communities who don't have health coverage are going to have it now. We're talking about the young man who works in the barbershop. We're talking about the older gentleman who is between Medicare and Medicaid. We're talking about that previously incarcerated individual. All of those people can now be a part of the process. Also, the Affordable Care Act covers pre-existing conditions. HIV is a pre-existing condition. Now people won't be turned away because they have HIV.
What can faith leaders do to lower stigma and fight HIV in the Black community?
There really has been a great effort to reduce the HIV stigma within the Black church lately. I think this involves faith-community stakeholders coming to the pulpit and telling the stories of people who are living with HIV in the community. I think that when you hear it from your pastor or the young Sunday-school teacher or from the health minister in your church, messages resonate far more deeply within congregations than they do from a senior executive at the Department of Health and Health Services, like me. It truly is about having people who are trusted messengers in the communities preach good information about what's going on in the community.
Candace Y.A. Montague is a freelance health writer in Washington, D.C. She is the D.C. HIV/AIDS examiner for Examiner.com and a blogger for The Body. She also contributes to The Grio and East of the River.