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University of Washington Health Sciences Library

Minority Health

A guide to health disparities among U.S. racial minority groups.

What is Health Equity?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Equity is defined as the complete and unfettered access to opportunity among people who differ by race, social status, income, gender, geography and other forms of stratification. When applied to health care, Health Equity refers to an ideal system in which every person receives equal access to health care services and the best possible outcomes from medical treatment regardless of demographics or geographic location. 

 

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”  -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March 25, 1966 at the second convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Chicago, IL.

(Photo courtesy of The  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division).

What are Health Disparities?

Health Disparities refer to negative, yet preventable, health outcomes, such as increased rates of disease, injury or death, experienced by socially disadvantaged populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)*, health disparities result from the complex interplay of multiple socio-economic factors including "poverty, environmental threats, inadequate access to health care, individual and behavioral factors and educational inequalities."

Profiles of Major Population Groups in the United States**

Ethnic Group Population*** Education Income Health Insurance Language Health Concerns
Caucasian (Non-Hispanic White)

197 Million (60.7%)

92.3% have a High School diploma

34.3% hold a bachelor's or higher

$61,394 Median household income

10.4% live in poverty

75.8% insured English is the primary language spoken at home. 

Heart disease,
cancer,
chronic lower respiratory disease

Hispanic / Latinx

56.5 Million  (17.6%)

66% have a High School diploma

14.8% hold a bachelor's or higher

$44,782 Median household income

22.6% live in poverty

47% insured

73% speak a language other than English at home

Obesity,
heart disease,
cancer,
stroke,
diabetes,
asthma

Black / African American

40.7 Million (12.7%)

84.8% have a High School diploma

20.2% hold a bachelor's or higher

$36,515 Median household income

25.4% live in poverty

54.4% insured

English is the primary language spoken at home. 

Heart disease,
cancer,
stroke,
asthma,
diabetes

Asian American

17.3 Million (5.4%)

86.5% have a High School diploma

52.3% hold a bachelor's or higher

$77,368 Median household income

12% live in poverty

68.8% insured 75.5% speak a language other than English at home

Heart disease
cancer,
stroke,
diabetes,
tuberculosis

American Indian / Alaskan Native

5.2 Million (2%)

82% have a High School diploma

17% hold a bachelor's or higher

$37,353 Median household income

26% live in poverty

47.5% insured

20% speak a language other than English at home

Infant death,
diabetes,
tuberculosis,
suicide

Native Hawaiian / Other Pacific Islander

1.3 Million (0.4%)

88.8% have a High School diploma

20.2% hold a bachelor's or higher

$60,133 Median household income

17.3% live in poverty

66.4% insured  28% speak a language other than English at home

Smoking,
alcohol consumption,
obesity,
heart disease,
cancer,
stroke,
diabetes,
tuberculosis

*Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. "Health Disparities". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, August 17). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/disparities/index.htm#1

**"Minority Population Profiles". U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. (2018, October 2). Retrieved from https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlID=26

***"Population estimates July 1, 2018." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045218

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