Diversity in the U.S.
The United States has become increasingly diverse in the last century. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 30 percent of the population currently belongs to a racial or ethnic minority group: American Indian or Alaska Native, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, and Asian American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
Though health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality have improved for most Americans, some minorities experience a disproportionate burden of preventable disease, death, and disability compared with non-minorities. (CDC's Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities).
To address the issue of health disparities in the U.S., Healthy People 2020 has set a goal to not only reduce health disparities, but to achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups.
Healthy People 2020 defines health equity as the “attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities.” (HHS, Office of Minority Health)
The reduction or elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in health has long been a goal of policymakers concerned with equity. An often overlooked point, however, is that excess rates of disease impose cost burdens on public programs as well as individuals and other purchasers of private health insurance. The analysis presented in this policy brief estimates the magnitude of current cost burdens both nationally and for several large states for a select set of preventable diseases. We estimate that in 2009, disparities among African Americans, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites will cost the health care system $23.9 billion dollars. (The Urban Institute. (2009). Estimating the Cost of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Waidmann, T. ) See entire report Estimating the Cost of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities at SAMHSA.org.