Reducing disparities downstream: prospects and challenges

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 May;23(5):672-7. doi: 10.1007/s11606-008-0509-0. Epub 2008 Jan 24.


Addressing upstream or fundamental causes (such as poverty, limited education, and compromised healthcare access) is essential to reduce healthcare disparities. But such approaches are not sufficient, and downstream interventions, addressing the consequences of those fundamental causes within the context of any existing health system, are also necessary. We present a definition of healthcare disparities and two key principles (that healthcare is a social good and disparities in outcomes are a quality problem) that together provide a framework for addressing disparities downstream. Adapting the chronic care model, we examine a hierarchy of three domains for interventions (health system, provider-patient interactions, and clinical decision making) to reduce disparities downstream and discuss challenges to implementing the necessary changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Health Policy*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Poverty / ethnology
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • United States