Health_Disparities_Introduction

Health_Disparities_Introduction - Working Together to End...

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Working Together to End Racial and Ethnic Disparities: One Physician at a Time 1. Health disparities overview What are health disparities? “Health disparities are differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States” (Institute of Medicine, 2002). African-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asians, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders bear a disproportionate burden of disease, injury, premature death and disability. The Institute of Medicine, in its seminal report, Unequal Treatment, concluded that racial and ethnic disparities in health care are widespread and persist even after accounting for socioeconomic factors, geographical location and disease state. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality produces an annual report that tracks changes in health care dis- parities for a range of clinical conditions. As summarized in the 2004 report: disparities are pervasive; improvement is possible; and gaps in information exist, especially for specific conditions and populations. Health disparities can mean lower life expectancy, decreased quality of life, loss of economic opportunities and perceptions of injustice. The expected demographic changes in the U.S. population will magnify the adverse impact of disparities on public health in the United States. For society, these disparities translate into decreased productivity, increased health care costs and social inequity.
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