Health Disparities: What Are “Health Disparities”? Why Do We Care? Should We Care?

  • Chris Chanyasulkit
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Public Health book series (BRIEFSPUBLIC)


A concise overview of what is meant by the terms, “health disparities” and “health inequities” is offered as a basis for understanding the need for successful public health advocacy. Recent statistics illustrate the health disparities and provide a deeper understanding for why such knowledge is important for both the public at large and for public health practitioners. Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, provides “Notes from the Field” with advice on public health, politics, coalition building, and advocacy.


Health disparities Health inequities Life expectancy Social determinants of health Racial equity gap Health strategist Politics Health policy Leadership Advocacy Coalition building 


  1. Braveman, P., Kumanyika, S., Fielding, J., LaVeist, T., Borrell, L., Manderscheid, R., & Troutman, A. (2011). Health disparities and health equity: The issue is justice. American Journal of Public Health, 101(S1), S149–S155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Budrys, G. (2017). Unequal health: How inequality contributes to health or illness. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  3. Carter-Pokras, O., & Baquet, C. (2002). What is a health disparity?. Public Health Reports. (Washington, DC: 1974), 117(5), 426–434.Google Scholar
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). National center for chronic disease prevention and health promotion. 2017 National diabetes statistics report: Estimates of diabetes and its burden in the United States;
  5. Creanga, A. A., Syverson, C., Seed, K., & Callaghan, W. M. (2017). Pregnancy-related mortality in the United States, 2011–2013. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 130(2), 366–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Department of Health and Human Services (US). (2010, December). Healthy people 2020: Framework. Washington, DC: DHHS.Google Scholar
  7. Health Resources and Services Administration. (2018). Office of health equity. In Health equity report 2017. Rockville: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  8. Herbst, J. H., Painter, T. M., Tomlinson, H. L., & Alvarez, M. E. (2014). Evidence-based HIV/STD prevention intervention for black men who have sex with men. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 63(1), 21–27.Google Scholar
  9. Kochanek, K. D., Murphy, S. L., Xu, J. Q., & Tejada-Vera, B. (2016). Deaths: Final data for 2014. National Vital Statistics Reports, 65(4), 1–121.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Koh, H., Graham, G., & Gllied, S. (2011). Reducing racial and ethnic disparities: The action plan from the Department of Health and Human Services. Health Affairs, 30(10), 1822–1829.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mack, K. (2013). Drug-induced deaths — United States, 1999–2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 62(03), 161–163.Google Scholar
  12. Mathews, T. J., & MacDorman, M. F. (2013). Infant mortality statistics from the 2009 Period linked birth/infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Reports, 61(8), 1–27. Hyattsville: National Centers for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  13. Mikati, I., Benson, A. F., Luben, T. J., Sacks, J. D., & Richmond-Bryant, J. (2018). Disparities in distribution of particulate matter emission sources by race and poverty status. American Journal of Public Health, 108(4), 480–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Murphy, S. L., Xu, J. Q., Kochanek, K. D., & Arias, E. (2018). Mortality in the United States, 2017. In NCHS data brief, no 328. Hyattsville: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  15. Pew Research Center. (2018, July). Income inequality in the U.S. Is rising most rapidly among Asians.Google Scholar
  16. US Census Bureau. (2016). The 2015 American community survey. Scholar
  17. Whitehead, M. (1991). The concepts and principles of equity and health (Vol. 6, pp. 217–228). Copenhagen: WHO/EURO.Google Scholar
  18. Williams, D., & Jackson, P. (2005). Social sources of racial disparities in health. Health Affairs, 24(2), 325–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Chanyasulkit
    • 1
  1. 1.BrooklineUSA

Personalised recommendations