Racial/ethnic disparities in healthcare are widespread in the United States and are prevalent across healthcare organizations, including the "equal access" Veterans' Affairs (VA) integrated healthcare system. Despite substantial attention to these disparities over the last decade, there has been limited progress in reducing them. Based on a review of evidence commissioned by the VA to guide its efforts to address racial and ethnic disparities, the conceptual framework describes the root causes of disparities in healthcare quality and outcomes, demonstrating why improvements in the quality of medical care have had limited influence over healthcare disparities that depend largely on social determinants of health. The recommended interventions-including care coordination, culturally-tailored health education, and community health workers-extend the reach of health systems beyond clinics and hospitals and into the communities and social and cultural contexts in which patients live, and in which most health promotion activities occur. To make inroads into addressing disparities, healthcare systems will need to move beyond conceptualizing care delivery as constrained to the clinical encounter and instead, incorporate an understanding of the social determinants of health.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health