Health Disparities Essay

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HP2020 ('Healthy People 2020') initiative is reducing health gaps in America. Much controversy exists with regard to what the term 'health disparities' actually refers to. Disparities are largely witnessed on the basis of socioeconomic status (SES), and racial/ethnic identity. A number of health indicator-related differences exist among different racial and ethnic groups in America. This paper will endeavor to explain what health disparities implies, the health indicator-related differences among different racial/ethnic populations, causes for such differences, and potential ways to bring about health improvements for underserved populations.

"Health Disparities" Defined

There is considerable debate regarding the precise meaning of "health disparities." One key facet of a majority of accepted meanings is that every health status difference between different population groups is not a disparity; disparities are only differences that systematically and adversely affect socially and economically less-advantaged people. On the American scene, disparities-related discourse has chiefly concentrated on ethnic/racial disparities. American and global literature addresses disparities based on sexual identity, gender, social class, economic capacity, and disability (Dehlendorf, Bryant, Huddleston, Jacoby, & Fujimoto, 2011).

A study of health disparities between less- and more- advantaged individuals necessitates their proper identification and classification into 'groups'. Socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity definitions give rise to measurement issues that should be taken into account by researchers on health gaps. Ethnicity/race related measurement strategies include self-identification, genetic markers and third-party assignment. Although the former is often regarded as the reference point of comparison in case of non-genetic research, a fresh analysis discovered that several research scholars fail to show how to identify subjects' race/ethnicity in their works; in very few cases, investigators assign ethnicity/race to subjects (Dehlendorf, Bryant, Huddleston, Jacoby, & Fujimoto, 2011).

Another consideration in socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity measurement in health disparity analysis deals with explaining the complex interactions between these constructs. For instance, poor African-Americans' socioeconomic standing might affect their health differently, as compared to their White counterparts. Such nuances should be considered in health disparity studies and conceptualization (Dehlendorf,

Differences in Health Indicators of Various Ethnic and Racial Groups in the U.S.

American socioeconomic stratification and quality-of-life differences in key ethnic/racial populations are deemed as the source of health indicator differences. The lives of individuals from different social groups differ with regard to most aspects including upbringing, education, career, marriage/family life, housing locality, healthcare, and leisure. SES indirectly impacts health outcomes via various SES-linked life experiences, choices, or opportunities, starting from childhood and accruing or changing for the good in later life. Health differences surface throughout people's lifecycle. However, it is widely assumed that they diminish with age (Crimmins, Hayward, & Seeman, 2004).

Socioeconomic and ethnic/racial differences aren't equal in all health areas. For instance, Black males exhibit higher mortality rates from cardiovascular ailments compared to White males; however, no significant difference is observed in reported heart ailment prevalence. Disparities vary even within disease groups; e.g., fatalities linked to some cancers seem less strongly associated with SES as compared to mortalities from other reasons (Angel & Guarnaccia, 1989). A few sources of disease and death will more likely be impacted by assumed SES mechanisms. Health variances between adult Whites and Blacks, and between different social classes, are….....

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Angel, R., & Guarnaccia, P. (1989). Mind, body, and culture: Somatization among Hispanics. Social Science and Medicine, 1229 -- 1238.

Crimmins, E., Hayward, M., & Seeman, T. (2004). Race/Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Status, and Health. Critical Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Differences in Health in Late Life.

Dehlendorf, C., Bryant, A., Huddleston, H., Jacoby, V., & Fujimoto, V. (2011). Health Disparities: Definitions and Measurements. Am J. Obstet Gynecol, 212 -- 213.

Maybery, Robert, Nicewander, D., Qin, H., & Ballard, D. (2006). Improving quality and reducing inequities: a challenge in achieving best care. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent)., 103 -- 118.
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