Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Care Disparities Is Essential for Better Health Care Outcomes and for Lowering Health Care Costs
There is a growing realization among healthcare researchers, clinicians, and advocates that a focus on health care disparities is an important aspect of improving healthcare outcomes and that activities toward improvement must bring together many elements of our healthcare delivery system. The populations that have customarily been underserved in the American health care system include African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
Defining Health Disparities
The term "health disparities" is often defined as "a difference in which disadvantaged social groups such as the poor, racial/ethnic minorities, women and other groups who have persistently experienced social disadvantage or discrimination systematically experience worse health or greater health risks than more advantaged social groups." When this term is applied to certain ethnic and racial social groups, it describes the increased presence and severity of certain diseases, poorer health outcomes, and greater difficulty in obtaining healthcare services for these races and ethnicities. When systemic barriers to good health are avoidable yet still remain, they are often referred to as "health inequities."
An understanding of how race, ethnicity, geography, education, and income impact one’s access to health services can provide valuable insight to health policy experts and advocates. Learning more about these disparities can be a way of lessening these kinds of inequalities. An analysis of the root causes of racial and ethnic disparities and what can be done to eliminate them can serve this end goal. Below are discussions of specific poorer health outcomes and ethnic and racial disparities which can be a result of social determinants. It is important to address how racial and ethnic disparities are not only morally wrong and fiscally unwise, but stress our health infrastructure, including programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.