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Health Disparities

Module Topics

  • Health disparities
  • Social determinants of health
  • Barriers to healthcare

In the last module we looked at the health of the people in Colorado. Although Colorado ranks among the healthiest states, a closer look shows major health differences between groups. Some health differences depend on racial or ethnic group, education, income level, or location.

In this module we will look at some of the issues that help explain the health of different groups of people. We will also look at common barriers that make it difficult for individuals to access healthcare.

What is a health disparity?

A health disparity is a difference in health between groups. For example, low-income groups have higher rates of obesity. Racial groups can also have disparities: Black/African Americans have higher rates of high blood pressure and Latinos have higher rates of diabetes.

Disparities are differences that should not exist. Health disparities are driven mostly by social and economic issues, but also by some biologic factors.

What groups are most likely to be affected by health disparities?

silhoutte of a person in a wheelchair

Groups that are more likely to have health disparities are often called underserved groups. Underserved people may be:

  • Low-income
  • Racial or ethnic minorities
  • Uninsured or underinsured (not having enough insurance)
  • Immigrants
  • Elderly
  • Geographically isolated or living in a place with few doctors or clinics

Health disparities may be affected by other characteristics of a group such as language, culture, gender, education, disability or sexual orientation.


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