Health Disparities 101

Not every person living with CHD in the United States has equal access to appropriate care, equal treatment within the healthcare system, or even equal outcomes.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect, but not every person living with CHD has the same access to, or treatment within, the U.S. healthcare system. Health disparities are a serious public health issue. At Conquering CHD, we are committed to educating the community about disparities faced by CHD patients and families.

What are health disparities?

Simply put: health disparities mean someone may get different medical treatment or may not have access to quality healthcare because of their race, where they were born, or how much money they have. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, health disparities are “population-specific differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes, or access to healthcare.” Health disparities are the inequalities that exist in our healthcare system, both in relation to the provision of healthcare and access to healthcare, across different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. 

Some of the health differences between groups of people may include:

  • How many people get a specific disease or condition
  • How severe the disease or condition is and whether they have complications
  • How many people die from a specific disease or condition
  • How many people receive regular screening for a specific disease
  • Whether people can get health care when they need it

What is health inequality?

Health inequality is slightly different from health disparities. Health inequality occurs when there are differences in the provision of healthcare between demographic groups despite having similar access to healthcare services. For example, higher rates of death from health conditions in the lower socioeconomic groups than those in the higher socioeconomic groups.

What are social determinants of health?

Everyone has outside factors that influence their health. Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the “conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” Social determinants are different from health disparities in that they describe the environment in which one lives, and not the system in which they receive care.

What are some types of health disparities?

Health differences between groups of people may be based on:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Immigration status
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Geographic location
  • Income
  • Education level

What types of health disparities exist?

Differences in presence of disease, health outcomes, or access to healthcare exist in several places, but can typically be divided into two groups: access to health care and quality of health care.

Disparities in access to health care can be related to:

  • Lack of health insurance or inadequate health insurance
  • Lack of financial resources
  • Irregular source of care (not having a regular primary care physician, for example)
  • Legal hurdles (immigration status, for example)
  • Structural barriers including lack of transport to health care appointments, long waiting times, inconvenient appointment times
  • Lack of healthcare providers
  • Language barriers
  • Age
  • Geography

Disparities in the quality of health care can be related to:

  • Communication problems
  • Discrimination from providers
  • Lack of preventative care and regular screening services
  • Mistrust of the healthcare system based on past events, individually or within groups of people
  • Historical mistreatment within the healthcare system

What is health equity?

Healthy equity means everyone can “live the healthiest life possible, no matter who we are, where we live, or how much money we make.” 

(https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/features/achieving-health-equity.html)


What is Conquering CHD doing to combat health disparities and achieve health equity?

We are committed to educating the community about disparities faced by CHD patients and families, and highlighting actions patients and families can take towards equitable health for all.

To learn more about what we are doing to combat health disparities and achieve health equity, check out “Why Health Disparities Should Matter to You

To learn more about health disparities, here are some helpful resources:

https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/features/achieving-health-equity.html

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/health-inequity#summary

https://www.kff.org/racial-equity-and-health-policy/issue-brief/disparities-in-health-and-health-care-5-key-question-and-answers/#:~:text=Healthy%20People%202020%20defines%20a,health%20based%20on%20their%20racial

https://medschool.ucsf.edu/about/diversity-equity-and-inclusion/differences-matter/health-equity-focus/resources-health-care


To learn more about health disparities in the CHD community, visit our blog: 


References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, October). Strategies for Reducing Health Disparities. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/minorityhealth/strategies2016/index.html

Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. (2020, August 10). Health Disparities and Race 101: Breaking Down Common Terminologies. Retrieved from Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children: https://www.fimrc.org/blog-complete/health-disparities-and-race-101-breaking-down-common-terminologies

Health Resources and Services Administration. (2020, October). Office of Health Equity. Retrieved from Health Resources and Services Administration: https://www.hrsa.gov/about/organization/bureaus/ohe/index.html

Healthy People 2020. (n.d.). Disparities. Retrieved from HealthyPeople.gov: https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/about/foundation-health-measures/Disparities

Leonard, J. C. (2021, May 16). What is health inequity? Retrieved from Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/health-inequity

Mandal, A. (2019, February 26). Disparities in Access to Health Care. Retrieved from News Medical Life Sciences: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Disparities-in-Access-to-Health-Care.aspx

Mandal, A. (2019, February 26). Disparities in Quality of Health Care. Retrieved from News Medical Life Sciences: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Disparities-in-Quality-of-Health-Care.aspx

Mandal, A. (2019, February 26). Health Inequalities. Retrieved from News Medical Life Sciences: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Health-Inequalities.aspx

Mandal, A. (2019, February 26). What are health disparities? . Retrieved from News Medical Life Sciences: https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Health-Disparities.aspx

Medline Plus – US National Library of Medicine. (2020, March 30). Health Disparities. Retrieved from Medline Plus: https://medlineplus.gov/healthdisparities.html

Ndugga, N. a. (2021, May 11). Disparities in Health and Health Care: 5 Key Questions and Answers. Retrieved from Kaiser Family Foundation: https://www.kff.org/racial-equity-and-health-policy/issue-brief/disparities-in-health-and-health-care-5-key-question-and-answers/#:~:text=Healthy%20People%202020%20defines%20a,health%20based%20on%20their%20racial

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (n.d.). Achieving Health Equity. Retrieved from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/features/achieving-health-equity.html

University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. (2020). Health Equity in Focus: Resources for Health Care Providers. Retrieved from UCSF School of Medicine: https://medschool.ucsf.edu/about/diversity-equity-and-inclusion/differences-matter/health-equity-focus/resources-health-care

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