Oct 7 2011
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Recommended Reading: October 2011 issue of Health Affairs

The October 2011 issue of Health Affairs looks at the critical issue of ethnic and racial health disparities in the U.S. At a briefing in Washington D.C. yesterday to launch the issue, Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H., said no progress had been made on improving health inequities in the U.S. in the last ten years, despite a commitment to do so in Healthy People 2010, the national health promotion and disease prevention initiative. However, the Department of Health and Human Services has set out an agenda for reducing disparities, originally released in the spring and published in the new Health Affairs issue.

Also well worth reading is an issue brief posted on the Health Affairs website that summarizes what is known about disparities and makes some recommendations:

  • Improvements are needed in the quality of care across the board in the U.S. health care system, with particular attention to places where minority patients are likely to receive most of their care.
  • Efforts should be made to lessen or eliminate the drivers of poor health, including poverty, low levels of education and the health and safety of neighborhoods.
  • More attention should be paid to ensure that health care safety-net facilities remain viable.
  • More research is needed to further understand health disparities. Research to date has shown that even when care disparities are eliminated, stubborn differences may still persist in health outcomes.

In announcing the government’s new agenda, Dr. Koh quoted the Reverend Martin Luther King: “Of all the forms of inequity, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane.”

Tags: Public health, Health disparities