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February: Health Disparities Month

By Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman

Those of you who read this blog know that our focus is on improving access to affordable quality health care for all. We’ve written about the plight of the uninsured and how their health suffers because of this. We’ve written about howHealth disparities the new health care law will give over 30 million people access to affordable health care who never had it before. We’ve written about nutrition and its impact on health. But most importantly, we’ve written about health disparities and the efforts to eliminate them.

Health disparities are differences in health outcomes between different sections of the population based on social, demographic, environmental, and geographic factors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta put out a report last month detailing a wide variety of health disparities in the U.S. Since the first step in eradicating disparities is identifying them we’re going to inform you about the disparities covered in this report. To give you an idea of what we’ll cover over the next month, here’s a small sample of the findings:

  • Rates of preventable hospitalizations increase as incomes decrease
  • Men are four times more likely to die of suicide than women
  • Air pollution related health effects disproportionately affect racial/ethnic minorities in urban areas
  • Residents of states with higher income inequality have fewer average healthy days than residents of states with less inequality
  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the U.S.

Over the course of the month each day our writers will dig deep into one of the topics from the CDC report. We’ll explain to you the CDC’s findings and illustrate them with a story from our experiences as physicians. While we’re doing this, we’d love to hear your thoughts and questions about these issues or suggestions for topics you think we should cover.

Hopefully we’ll be able to teach you something while bringing to you the human dimension of these statistics. And maybe we’ll spur you on to action, to find a corner of the world that could use your help in making the lives our fellow citizens just a bit brighter.

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