Success in Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Depends on Strong Leaders and Sponsors, Study Finds

Racial and ethnic minorities in the United States experience poorer health outcomes relative to the population as a whole.

The New School University in New York conducted a study in 2001 of community-based health care initiatives that were designed to reduce disparities in the health and health care of racial and ethnic minority populations. Many community-based initiatives have been created to address these disparities, but little is known about the factors that characterize successful programs.

Key Findings

  • In the monograph Addressing Health Disparities in Community Settings, the investigators describe the "success factors" and challenges that characterize the organizations running the programs studied. Among them:

    • At all of the sites, the programs are strongly identified with the commitment of a single, sometimes charismatic, leader.
    • All of the programs were in some way built on a preexisting organizational structure.
    • All of the programs depended on and benefited from strong local provider interest.
    • Each program's ability to provide or arrange for services was strongly associated with the local health care environment.

Key Conclusions

  • Replicating the various community-based health program models would be difficult.

  • Currently, it is unlikely that community-based health programs are having a large impact on the health of minority populations.