Bridging Domains in Efforts to Reduce Disparities in Health and Health Care

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The concept of health disparities is a familiar one, but we must continually challenge our thinking on how disparities issues are framed. The 1985 Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health established a disease-oriented focus on “excess deaths” as the primary targets of disparities initiatives. However, progress in reducing disparities has been limited. The disease focus, which emphasizes the individual-level and health care services, may be too narrow. A “population health” perspective can foster a more comprehensive and integrated approach. Both disease-oriented and population health perspectives have advantages and disadvantages, for both policy and practical purposes. The challenge is to effectively leverage both approaches to improve the health of ethnic minority and other disadvantaged populations. We need bridge builders who can articulate and hear diverse perspectives, work with systems, and maintain a long-term vision for affecting the social dynamics of society

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