(NNPA) – This week, the National Urban League released the 34th edition of the State of Black America, our annual assessment of the economic and social progress, or lack thereof, within the African-American community. The highlight of the 2010 report is our yearly Equality Index, measuring the status of African Americans, and for the first time, Hispanics, relative to Whites in five key areas: economics, health, education, social justice, and civic engagement. While this year’s report appropriately focuses on the job crisis that has been especially devastating to communities of color, I want to first take a few moments to applaud the passage of the most important health care legislation since the creation of Medicare in 1965.

Because of Sunday’s historic “Yes” vote in the House of Representatives, 32 million Americans will be added to the ranks of those who will finally have the protection and dignity afforded by health insurance. That includes 1 in 5 African Americans, 1 in 3 Hispanics and 1 in 10 Whites who don’t have health insurance today.

?But health care reform cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Most Americans will continue to get their health insurance at work and with 15 million people unemployed, African American unemployment at 15.8 percent and the Hispanic jobless rate at 12.4 percent, tackling the jobs crisis requires as much focus, commitment and courage as health care reform. That is why we have made it the cover story of this year’s State of Black America.

This year’s overall Equality Index for the Black-White comparison stands at 71.8 percent, compared to the revised 2009 index of 71.2 percent. The overall Hispanic Equality Index calculates at 75.5 percent.

The 2010 Equality Index comparing the economic status of Blacks and Whites is considerably lower at 57.4 percent. This reflects an unemployment rate for Blacks that is double that for Whites, a widening of the median household income gap, and the sobering facts that less than half of African-American families own a home compared to three quarters of White families and that Blacks and Hispanics are more than three times as likely as whites to live below the poverty line.

Our 2010 report reiterates our call for more attention to the deepening unemployment crisis in urban America, the centerpiece of which is our six point plan for Putting Americans Back to Work. Our plan proposes targeted investments now for direct job creation, job training for the chronically unemployed, greater access to credit for small businesses, additional counseling relief for those caught in the backlog of the foreclosure process, and tax incentives for clean energy companies who employ individuals in the targeted communities.   ?We are taking that message directly to Capitol Hill this week during our annual Legislative Policy Conference. Now that historic health care reform legislation has finally passed, it is time to turn our full attention to the health of our economy and jobs, jobs, jobs. To order a copy of the 2010 State of Black America, go to our website at www.nul.org. And remember to take the I AM EMPOWERED pledge at www.iamempowered.com.

Marc Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.