Issue Brief: Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

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Meyers, Kate (2007) Issue Brief: Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Other. UNSPECIFIED.


Why is this Issue Relevant to Policymakers? Efforts to reduce the disturbing levels of racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care in the United States will continue to fall short unless the complex interplay of social, physical, and organizational influences is better understood and addressed through collaborative, interdisciplinary actions. What are Health Disparities? No universally accepted definition of health disparities or health inequities exists. To some, disparities are simply differences in health processes or outcomes between population groups. However, more precise descriptions focus on differences where one group is “losing” or where differences are seen as avoidable and unjust. For example, some differences between groups (such as men and women) are based on different physiology and are not “unjust,” and do not fall within the purview of health disparities. Other differences – such as average life span for racial or socioeconomic groups – are connected to issues of social advantage and are thus viewed as health disparities or inequities. In the United States, much work has focused on racial and ethnic health disparities, while many other countries focus more on socioeconomic differences.