Keeping Your Heart Healthy

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Eliminating Health Disparities

Despite major advances in the fields of medicine and healthcare services over the past years, a significant health gap between rich and poor remains. As populations grow, so apparently do health disparities. The poor continue to shoulder a particularly disproportionate social burden in terms of inequitable access to decent healthcare, rising costs and higher rates of morbidity and mortality. People of color are receiving special attention in medical, social, and political literature due to disparities in health status. In recent years, evidence has shown a relationship between race/ethnicity and health disparities among the U.S. population. If racial and ethnic disparities in health are not addressed, demographic changes over the next decade will amplify the importance of this issue. As racial and ethnic minority populations grow, so will the poorer health status of our communities.

The factors contributing to these health disparities include reduced health care access, increased risk of disease due to work environment or housing conditions, and increased illness due to underlying cultural, socioeconomic, and medical factors. Improving access to health care will require increasing the number of people with insurance and removing a host of other barriers blocking large numbers of Americans from receiving needed care. The problem of access reaches beyond the 44 million Americans who lack health insurance-a number that is expected to reach 52 to 54 million over the next 10 years. The growing numbers are of concern because those without coverage tend to delay or forego important preventative and primary care services. Community-based efforts are needed to track health problems and assess unmet needs. The design of the health care delivery system has created a variety of obstacles to those seeking care. Strategies are needed to address such impediments. Improving the primary care system and access to it by conducting community...
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