What Are Health Disparities

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As our state and nation confront a rapidly changing U.S. health care system, the University of Arizona is responding to critical challenges in new and impactful ways, including addressing health disparities, improving the health of populations and achieving favorable health outcomes.
Health disparities — differences in health outcomes across groups of people — adversely affect people who have experienced greater obstacles to health on the basis of factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, age and/or geographic location, such as rural and border areas. Although health disparities tend to focus on those groups historically linked to discrimination or exclusion, the reality is that every person in Arizona, and the nation, is adversely impacted by health disparities.
We all can appreciate the impact at the individual level of being at greater risk of disease and illness — lost wages and employment opportunities, less time spent with family and friends, or diminished overall quality of life. The adverse impact of health disparities extends to a much broader, societal level due to the resulting economic
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The Institute of Medicine notes that population health outcomes are “the product of multiple determinants of health, including medical care, public health, genetics, behaviors, social factors and environmental factors.” In addition, the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council has recognized the central role of behavior in health care and prevention. The council’s 2010 Annual Status Report noted that the most effective approach to addressing the leading causes of death is to reduce and prevent underlying risk factors, such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition and tobacco
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