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The Health Disparities and Inequalities of the United States

Updated on October 6, 2011

The terms “health disparity” and “health inequality” are generally associated with developing nations, where professional medical attention is insufficient and health threats easily overwhelm a populace. Yet, within the United States itself, there is incredible variation concerning health access and treatment.


It is essential, firstly, to understand the marked differences between health disparities and inequalities. The former refers to the statistical instances of mortality, disease, and other health related threats between any given populations. The latter is a term reserved for contrasting states of health in communities where there is equal access to health care opportunities.


Taking into account the “progressive” state of the United States, why are there continued occurrences of unequal health care? Well, this imbalance can be attributed to certain barriers:

  • Structural – for some, there are no transportation options.
  • Financial – the cost of medical attention is simply too steep for certain socioeconomic classes. The cost of insurance additionally makes opting to forego medical treatment a necessity.
  • Service scarcity – many hospitals and clinics are severely understaffed and underfunded.
  • Communication – a major impediment is literacy. Those unable to communicate efficiently either through writing or speaking are incapable of successfully conveying their needs or understanding proper treatment methods.
  • Discrimination – it is often the case that a diagnosis unconsciously reflects a certain race or economic status, consequently affecting the medical care that is provided.


Reading between the lines, it is evident that less educated, impoverished persons do not receive equal access to medical resources and thereby suffer greatly. Additionally, the issues facing these populations reverberate throughout the nation as a whole.


In order to stem the tide of health disparities and inequalities, several actions can be taken:

  • Increasing educational campaigns concerning health.
  • Encouraging community support and the elimination of racial notions concerning health.
  • Acknowledging the need for better medical insurance and providers
  • Promoting prenatal and early life health care


Since this subject is far too vast and important for one hub, consider this as an introduction and please look to the 2011 CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report for statistical confirmation of these points or further information.


Further healthcare reports concerning inequality can be found here.

Global News on U.S. Health Disparities

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