Health & Healthcare Disparities

Healthy People 2020 defines health equity as the “attainment of the highest level of health for all people”. Achieving health equity essentially means eliminating health care disparities by ensuring good health for all. Addressing health care disparities is a core component of all aspects of the Center for Vulnerable Populations’ (CVP) research. The barriers that stand between society’s most vulnerable populations and effective health care are complex. Layers of cultural, linguistic, geographic, and social vulnerabilities exacerbate health care disparities. Health disparities in the U.S. are affected by social and physical environments at multiple levels and are relevant to understanding and addressing disparities across racial or ethnic and socioeconomic groups. In addition, there is growing evidence that there is an association between health and social factors, e.g., education, economic resources, neighborhood characteristics, discrimination, and residential segregation in health.

The CVP carries out innovative research in health communication and health policy to prevent and treat chronic diseases, and reduce health disparities in vulnerable populations through community engagement and empowerment. The CVP places major emphasis on both race/ethnicity and social class and their inter-relationships; and on imparting a basic understanding of how social determinants of health –like education, income, accumulated wealth, social and physical characteristics of neighborhood, racial and other forms of discrimination – can shape health disparities through a range of pathways and biologic mechanisms, with particular focus on the clinical conditions of pre-diabetes, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The CVP also works with local, regional, and national policy makers to provide input on policy solutions to improving health, and in particular for vulnerable and minority populations.