Eliminating health care inequities through strengthening access to care

Health Serv Res. 2023 Dec;58 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):300-310. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.14202.


Objective: To provide a research agenda and recommendations to address inequities in access to health care.

Data sources and study setting: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) organized a Health Equity Summit in July 2022 to evaluate what equity in access to health care means in the context of AHRQ's mission and health care delivery implementation portfolio. The findings are a result of this Summit, and subsequent convenings of experts on access and equity from academia, industry, and the government.

Study design: Multi-stakeholder input from AHRQ's Health Equity Summit, author consensus on a framework and key knowledge gaps, and summary of evidence from the supporting literature in the context of the framework ensure comprehensive recommendations.

Data collection/extraction methods: Through a stakeholder-engaged process, themes were developed to conceptualize access with a lens toward health equity. A working group researched the most appropriate framework for access to care to classify limitations identified during the Summit and develop recommendations supported by research in the context of the framework. This strategy was intentional, as the literature on inequities in access to care may itself be biased.

Principal findings: The Levesque et al. framework, which incorporates multiple dimensions of access (approachability, acceptability, availability, accommodation, affordability, and appropriateness), is the backdrop for framing research priorities for AHRQ. However, addressing inequities in access cannot be done without considering the roles of racism and intersectionality. Recommendations include funding research that not only measures racism within health care but also tests burgeoning anti-racist practices (e.g., co-production, provider training, holistic review, discrimination reporting, etc.), acting as a convener and thought leader in synthesizing best practices to mitigate racism, and forging the path forward for research on equity and access.

Conclusions: AHRQ is well-positioned to develop an action plan, strategically fund it, and convene stakeholders across the health care spectrum to employ these recommendations.

Keywords: health care access; health disparities; health services research; inequities; intersectionality; racially/ethnically minoritized populations; structural racism.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Health Equity*
  • Humans
  • Racism*