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

Communications strategy to disseminate a community-based disparities reduction report

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.