Social disparities in healthcare. The concept of social disparities in healthcare can sometimes be difficult to apply to a specific healthcare service or sector. The healthypeople.gov site, created by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, provides a succinct definition of social disparities, particularly as it applies to health care delivery, and also serves as a great introduction to this valuable information resource. Although it is an easy read, this particular article also delivers a great foundation for understanding how to integrate a focus on social disparities in healthcare into your interactions with healthcare delivery.
Although the term disparities is often interpreted to mean racial or ethnic disparities, many dimensions of disparity exist in the United States, particularly in health. If a health outcome is seen to a greater or lesser extent between populations, there is disparity. Race or ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and geographic location all contribute to an individual’s ability to achieve good health. It is important to recognize the impact that social determinants have on health outcomes of specific populations. Healthy People strives to improve the health of all groups.
To better understand the context of disparities, it is important to understand more about the U.S. population. In 2008, the U.S. population was estimated at 304 million people.1
- In 2008, approximately 33%, or more than 100 million people, identified themselves as belonging to a racial or ethnic minority population.1
- In 2008, 51%, or 154 million people, were women.1
- In 2008, approximately 12%, or 36 million people not living in nursing homes or other residential care facilities, had a disability.2
- In 2008, an estimated 70.5 million people lived in rural areas (23% of the population), while roughly 233.5 million people lived in urban areas (77%).3
- In 2002, an estimated 4% of the U.S. population ages 18 to 44 identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.4