Inequality in America: the contribution of health centers in reducing and eliminating disparities in access to care

Med Care Res Rev. 2001 Jun;58(2):234-48. doi: 10.1177/107755870105800205.


Reducing and eliminating health status disparities by providing access to appropriate health care is a goal of the nation's health care delivery system. This article reviews the literature that demonstrates a relationship between access to appropriate health care and reductions in health status disparities. Using comprehensive site-level data, patient surveys, and medical record reviews, the authors present an evaluation of the ability of health centers to provide such access. Access to a regular and usual source of care alone can mitigate health status disparities. The safety net health center network has reduced racial/ethnic, income, and insurance status disparities in access to primary care and important preventive screening procedures. In addition, the network has reduced low birth weight disparities for African American infants. Evidence suggests that health centers are successful in reducing and eliminating health access disparities by establishing themselves as their patients' usual and regular source of care. This relationship portends well for reducing and eliminating health status disparities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Centers / organization & administration*
  • Community Health Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Financing, Government / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Research
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Medical Indigency
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology