Role of Endocrinologists in Eliminating Health Care Disparities
Elders, M. Joycelyn
Elders, M. Joycelyn (2009) Role of Endocrinologists in Eliminating Health Care Disparities. Endocrine Practice, 15 (6). pp. 612-623.
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Objective: To review some of the persistent disparities in health and health care in the United States related to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, with a focus on diabetes mellitus and obesity, and to discuss the role of endocrinologists in preventing these disparities. Methods: Some of the efforts made by the US government, such as public health strategies, to address health disparities are outlined, and statistics about diabetes and obesity are presented. Results: The elimination of health disparities, recognized as a national challenge for decades, is a national priority as defined in the national goals for Healthy People 2010. Health disparities refer to the differences in the quality of health and health care access and outcomes across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Such disparities may be related to the patient (education, socioeconomic status, environment, language), the health care system (location, structural barriers, financial resources), or the provider, including a lack of diversity in the health care workforce. Endocrinologists are responsible for the care of many patients with chronic diseases, including obesity and diabetes mellitus. Both of these chronic diseases are diagnosed with increased frequency in minority populations and are preventable, difficult to manage, and associated with many complications and high health care costs. Conclusion: The role of endocrinologists is to provide equitable, affordable, accessible, high-quality, timely, cost-effective, and culturally sensitive health care. They must be involved in population health decisions and development of optimal health care policy so that endocrine disorders can ultimately be prevented. In addition, they must educate themselves, their patients, and the community regarding maintenance of healthy lifestyles to prevent complications.