Health Disparities

Health Disparities

The population of the United States is increasingly diverse, and behavioral health integration is considered to be a model with important benefits to a number of segments of the population. Healthy People 20201 clarified the meaning of health disparity by defining it as

“. . . a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with economic, social, or environmental disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social or economic obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, or mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.”

The Institute of Medicine report, Improving the Quality of Health Care for Mental and Substance-Use Conditions: Quality Chasm Series2 states “the only way to address disparities in the health care system is to integrate primary care with mental health care. Integration is being looked at as a model with important benefits to a number of segments of the population. This section explores the needs of these population segments and the work that has been done or is being recommended with regard to those groups. Among the population groups to be considered are age groups, gender, insurance status, racial and ethnic groups, rural and urban populations, and veterans. The Office of Minority Health has up-to-date news, information and resources on health disparities.

1Healthy People 2020. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/about/foundation-health-measures/Disparities. Accessed July 5, 2015.

2Institute of Medicine. Committee on Crossing the Quality Chasm: Adaptation to Mental Health and Addictive Disorders. Improving the Quality of Health Care for Mental and Substance-Use Conditions: Quality Chasm Series. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2006. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19830/. Accessed September 15, 2015.