Data on Health Care Disparities

Key Themes and Highlights From the 2008 National Healthcare Disparities Report

Examining health care disparities is an integral part of improving health care quality. Health care disparities are the differences or gaps in care experienced by one population compared with another population. The AQRH's annual National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR) was mandated by Congress to assess these gaps. 

The purpose of the NHDR is to identify the differences or gaps where some populations receive poor or worse care than others and to track how these gaps are changing over time. Although the emphasis is on disparities related to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, the directive also includes a charge to examine disparities in "priority populations." These include groups with unique health care needs or issues that require special attention, such as women, children, older adults, residents of rural areas, and individuals with disabilities or special health care needs.

The 2008 National Healthcare Disparities Report focused on the state of health care disparities for 45 core measures that represent the most important and scientifically credible measures of health care quality for the Nation, as selected by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Interagency Work Group.

Three key themes emerged from the 2008 NHDR:

  • Disparities persist in health care quality and access.
  • Magnitude and pattern of disparities are different within subpopulations.
  • Some disparities exist across multiple priority populations.

The report suggests that  these disparities are due to differences in access to care, provider biases, poor provider-patient communication, poor health literacy, and other factors.

Links to agencies with additional statistics and data on health disparities appears in the Related Links box at top right.