The public health approach to eliminating disparities in health

Am J Public Health. 2008 Sep;98(9 Suppl):S8-11. doi: 10.2105/ajph.98.supplement_1.s8.


Reducing and eliminating disparities in health is a matter of life and death. Each year in the United States, thousands of individuals die unnecessarily from easily preventable diseases and conditions. It is critical that we approach this problem from a broad public health perspective, attacking all of the determinants of health: access to care, behavior, social and physical environments, and overriding policies of universal access to care, physical education in schools, and restricted exposure to toxic substances. We describe the historical background for recognizing and addressing disparities in health, various factors that contribute to disparities, how the public health approach addresses such challenges, and two successful programs that apply the public health approach to reducing disparities in health. Public health leaders must advocate for public health solutions to eliminate disparities in health.