Eliminating health disparities in the United States

Eliminating health disparities in the United States. Is it possible to eliminate health disparities in the United States? Why or why not? What are some of the key strategies advocated by the readings?

Disparities in U.S. health care result from a complex mixture of systemic quality and access problems intertwined with historic injury. The many dimensions of health disparities include race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geography. It is critically important for policymakers to define the problem correctly so that our solutions address their intended goal—health security for all regardless of socioeconomic characteristics. Further, U.S. efforts to eliminate disparities must also be part of a broader effort to transform health care and thus must focus, first and foremost, on improving the quality of care delivered to the individual patient.

In discussing health disparities research, it is important to have a clear understanding of health disparities from both a conceptual and policy perspective. CarterPokras and Baquet (2002) distinguish between the terms “inequality”, “inequity”, and “disparity” as it relates to health. An inequality refers to an observable difference in opportunity, treatment, or status.

Eliminating health disparities

For example, there is substantial data to indicate that women live longer than men (status), that poor mothers are more likely to have no prenatal care and are more likely to have lower birth weight infants than non-poor women (opportunity, treatment, and status), that smokers are more likely to have lung cancer than non-smokers (opportunity and status), and that migrant workers have a lower lifespan than other blue collar workers (opportunity, treatment, and status).

•SHOULD women live longer than men? •SHOULD poor women have less access to poor care? •Is it ACCEPTABLE that poor women have an increased likelihood of lower birth weight infants than non-poor women? •Is it ACCEPTABLE that migrant workers have a shorter lifespan than other blue collar workers? •While all health inequities are health inequalities, not all health inequalities are health inequities.

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