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Health & Healthcare Equity: Health & Healthcare Disparities

This guide is designed to help you find resources on the subject of equity and disparities in health and healthcare.
“Minority health determines the health of the nation.” - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Guide Overview

This toolkit is provided to assist you in finding information on the subject of Health and Healthcare Equity

If you need assistance, please contact Sladen Library.



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Steven Moore
Sladen Library
Henry Ford Hospital
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Detroit, MI 48202

(313) 916-2550

Health and Healthcare Equity and Disparities: Definitions

More than one-third of the population of the United States belongs to a racial or ethnic minority group. Minority groups experience a disproportionate burden of preventable disease, death, and disability compared with non-minorities. This is referred to as a health disparity.

Minority groups often receive unequal healthcare compared to non-minorities, whether in insurance coverage, access to healthcare, or in treatment outcomes. This is referred to as a healthcare disparity. Healthcare disparities are a way to measure progress toward health equity.

These health inequities have received increasing attention over recent years, especially with the disproportionate effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on minority groups, whether due to higher rates of certain co-morbidities, social determinants of health, the prevalence of members of minority groups as frontline or essential workers, or individual or systemic racial and ethnic bias.

The World Health Organization defines health equity as "the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people." To achieve health equity, healthcare systems—along with other organizations like employers, public health agencies, community organizations, and policy makers—must work together to provide equal and equitable access to healthcare. Equitable action includes the prioritization of addressing social determinants of health such as poverty or housing. One such example: in late 2020, the city of Detroit extended a moratorium on water shutoffs to ensure its residents maintained access to clean water through 2022. The rate of influenza vaccinations in minority groups is lower than in the white population. An equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines prioritizes groups that are not vaccinated as frequently and groups that experience higher rates of hospitalization.

Henry Ford Health recognizes that there are disproportionate numbers of underrepresented racial and ethnic populations who are affected by serious and chronic medical conditions. Several initiatives are underway determined to reduce healthcare disparities and increase health equity.

The Health Disparities Research Collaborative research "targets US population groups traditionally classified according to the Office of Management and Budget categories, including African-Americans, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. This focus not only benefits the increasingly diverse patient population at HFHS, but also supports and fosters the cutting-edge research that identifies HFHS as a national leader in the formulation of solutions to racial and ethnic health disparities." 

The Institute on Multicultural Health seeks to eliminate disparities in healthcare by conducting and facilitating research, developing community-based initiatives, and providing training and consultation. Community Health projects have recently focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, including information on ensuring equity and talking to communities about healthcare.

Led by Sladen Library's director, the Healthcare Equity Book Club provides an opportunity for the Henry Ford Health community to engage with diverse experiences to explore how differences in social factors, religion, culture, beliefs, and ethnic customs can greatly influence a patient’s health.

Henry Ford Health's annual Medical Education Research Forum features research focused on a variety of topics, including Healthcare Disparities. View the works in Scholarly Commons.

In 2021, HFHS participated in Black Health Matters: The Close the Gap Community Health Challenge, a health fair aimed at raising awareness of heart health within the Black community; helped support the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a virtual event on the intersections of race and politics in the U.S. held at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; and CEO Wright Lassiter III held a virtual event with industry leaders to discuss COVID-19, disparities in healthcare, and the role of hospitals in advancing equity.

In addition to the resources shared here, this subject guide collects databases, books, journals, and various resources from governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations on the topic of health and healthcare disparities and equity. For more information, contact Sladen Library.