MedlinePlus, a service of the US National Library of Medicine, defines health disparities as the differences that “can affect how frequently a disease affects a group, how many people get sick, or how often the disease causes death.” The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) defines health disparities as “gaps in the quality of health and health care that mirror differences in socioeconomic status, racial and ethnic background, and education level.” Health disparities may be identified across populations such as racial and ethnic minorities, residents of rural areas, women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. They may stem from many factors including access to health care services and facilities, or increased risk of disease or injury from occupational exposure or underlying genetic factors.
- About 2 million Latinos in the US have Asthma, while Puerto Rican Americans have almost three times the asthma rate of the overall Latino population.
- African-Americans experience higher rates of organ rejection and lower survival rates after transplantation.
- In 2009, Latinos represented about 16% of the total US population, yet accounted for 20 percent of all new HIV infections.
- The diabetes death rate in 2000 amongst Latinos was highest among Puerto Ricans (172 per 100,000) in comparison to Mexican Americans (122 per 100,000) and Cuban Americans (47 per 100,000).
This is the first in a series on health disparities. Read the next article.