Ending health disparities in the U.S.


April is National Minority Health Month. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are highlighting efforts to eliminate health disparities with the theme 30 Years of Advancing Health Equity, The Heckler Report: A force for Ending Disparities in America.

Health disparity refers to a systematic difference in the health status of populations, often measured by mortality, disability, or morbidity, and caused by various personal, social, and environmental factors.  The existence and challenges of health disparities among racial and ethnic groups in the United States were first acknowledged in the Heckler Report in 1985. Despite efforts to address such disparities over the last 30 years, chronic diseases and other conditions continue to affect minority populations disproportionately.

According to the CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report, even as the preterm rate for black infants declined to the lowest level ever reported between 2006 and 2010, it was still approximately 60% higher than that for white infants. Rates of premature death from stroke and coronary heart disease before the age of 75 remain higher among non-Hispanic blacks. Some minority groups experience poorer health outcomes due to limited access to affordable and high quality care. Health disparities also impact the overall quality of health care and the economy. The direct and indirect costs of health disparities result in an annual loss of $309 billion to the economy.   

As we celebrate National Minority Health Month, April is an opportune time to renew and increase awareness about national and local efforts to eliminate health disparities. Learn more about the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and CDC Actions in support of the Action Plan. 

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You can change the image of things to come. But you can’t do it sitting on your hands … The science community should reach out to Congress and build bridges.
The Honorable John E. Porter