Churches United for Healthy Congregations

Improving health through faith and behavioral change

What are Health Disparities? What is Being Done about Them?

According to the National Partnership for Action to end Health Disparities, a health disparity is a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social or economic disadvantage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.

These disparities are inequitable and directly related to the historical and current unequal distribution of social, political, economic, and environmental resources.

In addition to race and ethnicity, health disparities also exist on the basis of sex, age, income level, geography, sexual orientation, disability, and special health care needs.

Diseases that show high disparities include obesity, diabetes, asthma, HIV Infections, coronary heart disease and stroke, and hypertension.  Deaths in this country affected by disparities include Infant deaths, motor vehicle deaths, suicides, drug induced deaths, heart disease and stroke deaths and homicides.

Perhaps one of the best ways to understand Health Disparities and what they really mean to us is to show how they affect our children.  Young people from racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States suffer disproportionately from a number of preventable diseases and health problems. For example:

     Compared with white youth, black and Hispanic youth have a higher prevalence of asthma,
 overweight, and type 2 diabetes.

Rates of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy are higher among black and Hispanic youth than among whites of the same age.

In 2007, black youth accounted for approximately 68% of new HIV/AIDS cases among 13?19 year olds, even though they represented only 15% of the population in that age group.

Hispanic youth experience proportionately more anxiety-related behaviors and depression than do non-Hispanic white youth.

     Among youth aged 10?19 years, American Indians have the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes of any racial/ethnic group.

Suicide rates among American Indians/Alaska Natives aged 15-34 years are more than two times higher than the national average for that age group.

 Efforts nationwide to reduce and eliminate health disparities include:

·         Focusing programmatic efforts to address the needs of adults and youth in high risk groups.

·         Raising awareness about the causes of disparities and about evidence-based strategies
     for addressing them.

·         Building partnerships to address the root causes of health and educational disparities.

·         Documenting the impact of health disparities, as well as the impact of efforts to
     reduce them.

 The following reports give information about what is currently being done to reduce health disparities on a national level.  We can do our part by being aware of what health disparities are and how they affect us, being passionate advocates to reduce barriers to accessing health care and by our continuing efforts to encourage our family, friends and church members to live healthy lifestyles and to seek regular age appropriate screening for chronic diseases. 

Read the Health and Human Services Plan to Reduce Racial and Health Disparities at:

Read the CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report and get excellent fact sheets about disparities in diseases to share with your congregations at:



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