Rationale for regular reporting on health disparities and inequalities - United States

MMWR Suppl. 2011 Jan 14;60(1):3-10.


Most U.S. residents want a society in which all persons live long, healthy lives; however, that vision is yet to be realized fully. As two of its primary goals, CDC aims to reduce preventable morbidity and mortality and to eliminate disparities in health between segments of the U.S. population. The first of its kind, this 2011 CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report (2011 CHDIR) represents a milestone in CDC's long history of working to eliminate disparities. Health disparities are differences in health outcomes and their determinants between segments of the population, as defined by social, demographic, environmental, and geographic attributes. Health inequalities, which is sometimes used interchangeably with the term health disparities, is more often used in the scientific and economic literature to refer to summary measures of population health associated with individual- or group-specific attributes (e.g., income, education, or race/ethnicity). Health inequities are a subset of health inequalities that are modifiable, associated with social disadvantage, and considered ethically unfair. Health disparities, inequalities, and inequities are important indicators of community health and provide information for decision making and intervention implementation to reduce preventable morbidity and mortality. Except in the next section of this report that describes selected health inequalities, this report uses the term health disparities as it is defined in U.S. federal laws and commonly used in the U.S. public health literature to refer to gaps in health between segments of the population.

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Public Health*
  • United States / epidemiology