Health disparities are the persistent gaps between the health status of minorities and non-minorities in the United States.
Despite continued advances in health care and technology, racial and ethnic minorities continue to have more disease, disability, and premature death than non-minorities.
African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, have higher rates of infant mortality, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, HIV infection/AIDS, cancer, and lower rates of immunizations and cancer screening.
The causes are complex, but two major factors are:
- Inadequate Access to Care
Barriers to care can result from economic, geographic, linguistic, cultural, and health care financing issues. Even when minorities have similar levels of access to care, health insurance and education, the quality and intensity of health care they receive are often poor.
- Substandard Quality of Care
Lower quality care has many causes, including patient-provider miscommunication, provider discrimination, stereotyping, or prejudice. Quality of care is usually rated on four measures: effectiveness, patient safety, timeliness, and patient centeredness.
To read some of the research on poor health outcomes among racial and ethnic minorities, please see:
Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality, 2006 National Healthcare Disparities Report
Healthy People 2010: Midcourse Review Executive Summary
National Leadership Summit on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health
Health Disparities, Office of Minority Health
Institute of Medicine report, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Office of Minority Health
National Institutes of Health, National Center on Minority Health
What Is a "Health Disparity"? [PDF, 304KB]
The NPA will work with people who are already involved in minority health and health disparity issues as well as those who want to learn and do more.
No matter where you live, work, or play, here are some ways you can get involved:
- Educate your membership and the public about health disparities;
- Organize and sponsor campaign and outreach events;
- Participate in local, State, regional, and Tribal NPA action meetings to share strategies and solutions;
- Share best practices and lessons learned;
- Collaborate with other NPA partners, when possible;
- Improve coordination and utilization of research and outcome evaluations;
- Promote cultural competency in health care delivery; and
- Include core NPA messages into health materials and activities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 41.5% of the workforce will be members of racial and ethnic minority groups within the decade.
Even after controlling for economic and health insurance status, differences still appear in diagnosis and treatment of specific health conditions, utilization of preventive services, and health outcomes.
This makes health disparities a business issue. Employers have begun to recognize that the quality of health care for their workers receive is important to employee health, productivity, performance and business outcomes.
However, many employers may be unaware of inequities in the health care system and how they can negatively influence health status. Awareness of these issues and of what other businesses have done to tackle the problem successfully, is essential to employers who purchase or plan health care services.
As a result, the HHS Office of Minority Health asked the National Business Group on Health to develop Why Companies Are Making Health Disparities Their Business: The Business Case and Practical Strategies. It describes the impact that racial and ethnic health disparities have on large employers.
OMH and the National Business Group on Health have launched a new two-year effort to strengthen ongoing partnerships and build new business-community coalitions to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities and improve the quality of health care for minority populations. This includes the development of a portfolio of practical strategies that large employers could implement as major purchasers of health care.
To read about how disparities affect the workforce and what employers need to know, see:
An Employer Toolkit: Reducing Racial & Ethnic Health Disparities
Why Companies Are Making Health Disparities Their Business: The Business Case and Practical Strategies
"Business Case Analysis" [PDF, 300KB]
Reducing Health Disparities: Why and How Companies Are Making It Their Business
"Business Case. Issue Brief" [PDF, 98.2KB]
Bridging Language and Culture Gaps in the Workplace
"Language Barrier. Issue Brief" [PDF, 280KB]