Saturday, March 2, 2024

Report Finds Disparities in Health, Congressional TriCaucus Announces Legislatio


In a report released yesterday, the Kaiser Family Foundation found sizable health disparities present in all U.S. states between women of different racial and ethnic groups. The findings indicate that the health of women of color suffer in comparison to white women in a variety of different ways – including various measures of the quality of health, access to health care and other social determinants that impact one’s health.

The report, “Putting Women’s Health Care Disparities on the Map: Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities at the State Level,” looked at 25 different indicators between white women and women of color when measuring the disparities. The indicators used are broad in scope- the Kaiser Family Foundation look at rates of diabetes, heart disease, AIDS and cancer, while also examining insurance coverage, access to health care, health screenings, etc. In most areas, white women were better off than women of color and in some cases the differences were dramatic.

Rather than simply providing national statistics this report focused on state level figures because health disparities differ greatly on a state-by-state basis. This specific information is helpful in determining how to best address the discrepancies in an individual state. Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman explains that “this report demonstrates that disparities in health are not one problem but many and vary from state to state – and that a variety of strategies will be needed if we hope to turn things around.”

American Indian and Alaska Native women were found to experience some of the greatest challenges in regards to their health. In many of examined areas these two groups had the worst outcomes, up to twice as high as white women in some cases. This report also illustrated that there are many differences among states within racial and ethnic groups – for example 43% of Hispanic women in Oklahoma had not had a mammogram in the past two years, compared to 14.5% of Hispanic women in Massachusetts.

The report also measured other factors that impact health and access to health care, such as poverty levels and rates of high school graduation. Simultaneously the report examined the scope of each individual state’s Medicaid programs.

In some states the report found huge differences among racial and ethnic groups while in others the gaps are smaller. In Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and Hawaii there were only small differences in health outcomes, health care access and many social factors between white women and women of color. In these same areas, larger gaps were present in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and South Dakota. It is also important to note that in some states with smaller disparities, like Maine, white women and minority women were doing similarly well; but in other states, like Kentucky, the disparities were small but the overall level of health was low.

It is no surprise then, that the Congressional Tri-Caucus (a coalition of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus) held a press conference addressing this issue and announcing plans for legislation aimed at reducing the disparities. At the press conference the Congressional Tri-Caucus outlined their priorities for health care reform. These priorities ranged from ensuring universal and comprehensive access to quality health care, achieving health equality and eliminating health disparities to increasing the diversity and cultural competence of health care professionals, among others.

The legislation announced is called the “Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009” and is currently in development. It will be designed to address the causes of the U.S.’s health disparities by working to achieve equality across racial, ethnic, gender and geographical lines.

Kaiser Family Foundation

Congressional TriCaucus