Health Disparities - Less Talk, More Action

Published in: The New England Journal of Medicine, v. 353, no. 7, Editorial, Aug. 18, 2005, p. 727-729

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2005

by Nicole Lurie

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In this article the author discusses three articles in this journal issue that document the existence of racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care by looking at time trends. These articles tell us about fundamental components of systems that will be critical in the elimination of disparities in care. The research could not have been done without data on the race or ethnic background of patients. Measurement and reporting, and their associated quality-improvement activities, have led to improvement in the quality of care overall as well as to the narrowing of racial disparities. However, until very recently, the bulk of the delivery system had no data on race and ethnic background, so it has been virtually impossible to examine, let alone publicly report, data on the quality of care for various racial and ethnic groups. The use of available data and standard quality-improvement methods constitutes a good start. Additional work will be required to understand why the process measures have changed even though the outcomes have not.

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