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

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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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