Health Disparities

Minority Health Determines the Health of the Nation – The United States has become increasingly diverse in the last century. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 36 percent of the population belongs to a racial or ethnic minority group. 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.

Health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or in opportunities to achieve optimal health experienced by socially disadvantaged racial, ethnic, and other population groups, and communities. Health disparities exist in all age groups, including older adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is aware that even though life expectancy and overall health have improved in recent years for most Americans, not all older adults are benefitting equally because of factors such as economic status, race, and gender. CDC acknowledges that this is a growing problem and is trying to incorporate these issues into our work.

Some of CDC activities in this area include The State of Aging and Health in America 2007 report, in which the health status and health behaviors of U.S. adults aged 65 years and older are assessed, and recommendations are made for improving the mental and physical health of all Americans in their later years. Throughout this document, data display the differences in health status and health behaviors found among different groups of older adults, and highlights programs working to reduce health disparities among older adults. This information will provide a better understanding of how health disparities may affect various older adult populations, and include a specific “call-to-action” to address health disparities among older adults.

The CDC’s Healthy Aging Program is also conducting research on minority populations to identify and address health disparities. CDC is currently examining the health and characteristics of American Indian and Alaska Native caregivers. CDC is also assessing how diverse groups of older adults (e.g., African Americans, Hispanics, and Chinese Americans) think about cognitive health and its association with lifestyle factors.