Establishing a clear and uniform definition, and a framework for analysis, is vital to understanding healthcare disparities and guiding mitigation strategies.
Many studies of healthcare disparities fail to use a clear definition and framework for analysis, which results in estimates and findings that are ill-defined and subject to misinterpretation.
Clear, high-quality measures of racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare use, with explicit definitions and interpretations, are critical to understanding disparities and exploring their causal factors.
Disparity estimates can vary widely without standardized disparity definitions. A clear definition, and a supporting conceptual framework, is critical for interpretation.
Estimates of a single disparity definition and its component parts vary across estimation approaches.
Researchers offer key recommendations for defining racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare, including having a clear description of the health disparity of interest, providing a conceptual framework, discussing data limitations, investigating contributing factors, and calculating the magnitude of the disparity defined, to help address disparities, guide and evaluate interventions, and set equity policy agendas.
About the Author/Grantee
The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector. Visit the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center for more information specific to its staff and its recent research.
Achieving Health Equity
As health disparities in the United States continue to grow, RWJF's health equity toolkit provides resources, data, and examples of communities working to achieve better health for all.