Understanding Disparities in Health Care Access - and Reducing Them - Through a Focus on Public Health

Published In: Health Affairs, v. 30, no. 10, Oct. 2011, p. 1844-1851

Posted on RAND.org on October 01, 2011

by Kathryn Pitkin Derose, Carole Roan Gresenz, Jeanne S. Ringel

Attempts to explain disparities in access to health care faced by racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved populations often focus on individual-level factors such as demographics, personal health beliefs, and health insurance status. This article proposes an examination of these disparities-and an effort to redress them-through the lens of public health. Public health agencies can link people to needed services such as immunizations, testing, and treatment; ensure the availability of health care; ensure the competency of the public health and personal health care workforce; and evaluate the effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based services. Approaching disparities through a public health framework can provide the foundation for developing more robust evidence to inform additional policies for improving access and reducing disparities.

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