Public health practitioners place great emphasis on health disparities and strategies for attaining health equity, with COVID-19 pandemic serving as a powerful catalyst in creating greater awareness and focus around these disparities, which result from unequal access to resources that support healthy lives.
Promote culturally and linguistically appropriate services to increase patient-provider communication. Collect and report race/ethnicity data in order to identify disparities.
Social determinants of health
The social determinants of health refer to an array of forces and systems within society that impact individuals’ experiences, risks and opportunities related to health. These factors include education, income, housing, food security, community safety and employment – although people from marginalized racial/ethnic groups, rural communities or those with lower socioeconomic status tend to be disproportionately exposed to conditions that could harm their wellbeing.
Resolving these challenges requires taking an integrated approach involving health care systems and stakeholders across sectors. For instance, health plans have begun partnering with local organizations in an effort to expand access to affordable healthy foods and housing as well as improve schools and public transport networks while decreasing crime in high-crime neighborhoods. Furthermore, at the 2020 American Medical Association Special Meeting policy was passed that requires efforts be undertaken in developing community-based health and social service delivery models that address social determinants of health.
Discrimination is one of the major contributors to health disparities. People exposed to discrimination may experience lower quality of life and have greater difficulty accessing care and services based on race, ethnicity, age, religion disability gender sexual orientation socioeconomic status or any other factor.
Many health disparities stem from social issues like structural racism and poverty, necessitating an integrated response from federal, state, local, and community organizations.
Reduce health disparities by ensuring the healthcare workforce reflects the diversity of U.S. society. Health care professionals must be trained to recognize and address disparities among their patients’ backgrounds, cultures, languages, and social contexts – something the AMA is actively doing with physicians and other healthcare providers as part of this endeavor. Furthermore, nongovernmental organizations can play an essential role by stimulating innovation with programs or grants targeting root causes of disparities.
Health care access
Health disparities arise due to unequal access to healthcare services, clinical care and quality of life; they may also be related to factors like gender, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or disability. Poor health outcomes experienced by racial and ethnic minority populations place a burden on society both financially and in terms of lost productivity.
Many disparities perpetuate themselves: If parents become too sick to work, their income declines and it becomes harder to afford needed health care services. Therefore, communities must develop solutions to address these issues and ensure all families can access necessary health services.
Many organizations, coalitions, boards and councils are working to reduce health disparities. Their efforts may focus on funding programs to expand access to healthcare services like language assistance or public health literacy; or diversify workforces while offering culturally sensitive care.
Community action can help tackle the root causes of health disparities and foster conditions that promote equity. This may involve creating education and prevention programs to teach people how to lead healthier lives and sharing information about which programs are successful and which could use improvement.
Communities of color, rural communities, and those with cognitive or physical disabilities are often exposed to conditions which increase health risks and outcomes for them disproportionately. This can result in higher rates of death and disease which, in turn, results in increased state and federal costs related to healthcare as well as decreased productivity.
Eliminating health disparities is cost effective. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), eliminating differences in rates of poor health outcomes by race or ethnicity would save $230 billion in medical costs as well as indirect costs due to lost workplace productivity. With COVID-19 spreading quickly among young adults in certain parts of America and an ongoing dialogue around police violence raising awareness on this matter has also increased.