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1.  Reinterpreting Ethnic Patterns among White and African American Men Who Inject Heroin: A Social Science of Medicine Approach 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e452.
Background
Street-based heroin injectors represent an especially vulnerable population group subject to negative health outcomes and social stigma. Effective clinical treatment and public health intervention for this population requires an understanding of their cultural environment and experiences. Social science theory and methods offer tools to understand the reasons for economic and ethnic disparities that cause individual suffering and stress at the institutional level.
Methods and Findings
We used a cross-methodological approach that incorporated quantitative, clinical, and ethnographic data collected by two contemporaneous long-term San Francisco studies, one epidemiological and one ethnographic, to explore the impact of ethnicity on street-based heroin-injecting men 45 years of age or older who were self-identified as either African American or white. We triangulated our ethnographic findings by statistically examining 14 relevant epidemiological variables stratified by median age and ethnicity. We observed significant differences in social practices between self-identified African Americans and whites in our ethnographic social network sample with respect to patterns of (1) drug consumption; (2) income generation; (3) social and institutional relationships; and (4) personal health and hygiene. African Americans and whites tended to experience different structural relationships to their shared condition of addiction and poverty. Specifically, this generation of San Francisco injectors grew up as the children of poor rural to urban immigrants in an era (the late 1960s through 1970s) when industrial jobs disappeared and heroin became fashionable. This was also when violent segregated inner city youth gangs proliferated and the federal government initiated its “War on Drugs.” African Americans had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families. Most of the whites were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime. These historical-structural conditions generated distinct presentations of self. Whites styled themselves as outcasts, defeated by addiction. They professed to be injecting heroin to stave off “dopesickness” rather than to seek pleasure. African Americans, in contrast, cast their physical addiction as an oppositional pursuit of autonomy and pleasure. They considered themselves to be professional outlaws and rejected any appearance of abjection. Many, but not all, of these ethnographic findings were corroborated by our epidemiological data, highlighting the variability of behaviors within ethnic categories.
Conclusions
Bringing quantitative and qualitative methodologies and perspectives into a collaborative dialog among cross-disciplinary researchers highlights the fact that clinical practice must go beyond simple racial or cultural categories. A clinical social science approach provides insights into how sociocultural processes are mediated by historically rooted and institutionally enforced power relations. Recognizing the logical underpinnings of ethnically specific behavioral patterns of street-based injectors is the foundation for cultural competence and for successful clinical relationships. It reduces the risk of suboptimal medical care for an exceptionally vulnerable and challenging patient population. Social science approaches can also help explain larger-scale patterns of health disparities; inform new approaches to structural and institutional-level public health initiatives; and enable clinicians to take more leadership in changing public policies that have negative health consequences.
Bourgois and colleagues found that the African American and white men in their study had a different pattern of drug use and risk behaviors, adopted different strategies for survival, and had different personal histories.
Editors' Summary
Background.
There are stark differences in the health of different ethnic groups in America. For example, the life expectancy for white men is 75.4 years, but it is only 69.2 years for African-American men. The reasons behind these disparities are unclear, though there are several possible explanations. Perhaps, for example, different ethnic groups are treated differently by health professionals (with some groups receiving poorer quality health care). Or maybe the health disparities are due to differences across ethnic groups in income level (we know that richer people are healthier). These disparities are likely to persist unless we gain a better understanding of how they arise.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to study the health of a very vulnerable community of people: heroin users living on the streets in the San Francisco Bay Area. The health status of this community is extremely poor, and its members are highly stigmatized—including by health professionals themselves. The researchers wanted to know whether African American men and white men who live on the streets have a different pattern of drug use, whether they adopt varying strategies for survival, and whether they have different personal histories. Knowledge of such differences would help the health community to provide more tailored and culturally appropriate interventions. Physicians, nurses, and social workers often treat street-based drug users, especially in emergency rooms and free clinics. These health professionals regularly report that their interactions with street-based drug users are frustrating and confrontational. The researchers hoped that their study would help these professionals to have a better understanding of the cultural backgrounds and motivations of their drug-using patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Over the course of six years, the researchers directly observed about 70 men living on the streets who injected heroin as they went about their usual lives (this type of research is called “participant observation”). The researchers specifically looked to see whether there were differences between the white and African American men. All the men gave their consent to be studied in this way and to be photographed. The researchers also studied a database of interviews with almost 7,000 injection drug users conducted over five years, drawing out the data on differences between white and African men. The researchers found that the white men were more likely to supplement their heroin use with inexpensive fortified wine, while African American men were more likely to supplement heroin with crack. Most of the white men were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime, and these men tended to consider themselves as destitute outcasts. African American men had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families, and these men tended to consider themselves as professional outlaws. The white men persevered less in attempting to find a vein in which to inject heroin, and so were more likely to inject the drug directly under the skin—this meant that they were more likely to suffer from skin abscesses. The white men generated most of their income from panhandling (begging for money), while the African American men generated most of their income through petty crime and/or through offering services such as washing car windows at gas stations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Among street-based heroin users, there are important differences between white men and African American men in the type of drugs used, the method of drug use, their social backgrounds, the way in which they identify themselves, and the health risks that they take. By understanding these differences, health professionals should be better placed to provide tailored and appropriate care when these men present to clinics and emergency rooms. As the researchers say, “understanding of different ethnic populations of drug injectors may reduce difficult clinical interactions and resultant physician frustration while improving patient access and adherence to care.” One limitation of this study is that the researchers studied one specific community in one particular area of the US—so we should not assume that their findings would apply to street-based heroin users elsewhere.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030452.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a web page on HIV prevention among injection drug users
The World Health Organization has collected documents on reducing the risk of HIV in injection drug users and on harm reduction approaches
The International Harm Reduction Association has information relevant to a global audience on reducing drug-related harm among individuals and communities
US-focused information on harm reduction is available via the websites of the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Chicago Recovery Alliance
Canada-focused information can be found at the Street Works Web site
The Harm Reduction Journal publishes open-access articles
The CDC has a web page on eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities
The Drug Policy Alliance has a web page on drug policy in the United States
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030452
PMCID: PMC1621100  PMID: 17076569
2.  The Promise of Prevention: The Effects of Four Preventable Risk Factors on National Life Expectancy and Life Expectancy Disparities by Race and County in the United States 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(3):e1000248.
Majid Ezzati and colleagues examine the contribution of a set of risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and adiposity) to socioeconomic disparities in life expectancy in the US population.
Background
There has been substantial research on psychosocial and health care determinants of health disparities in the United States (US) but less on the role of modifiable risk factors. We estimated the effects of smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, and adiposity on national life expectancy and on disparities in life expectancy and disease-specific mortality among eight subgroups of the US population (the “Eight Americas”) defined on the basis of race and the location and socioeconomic characteristics of county of residence, in 2005.
Methods and Findings
We combined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to estimate unbiased risk factor levels for the Eight Americas. We used data from the National Center for Health Statistics to estimate age–sex–disease-specific number of deaths in 2005. We used systematic reviews and meta-analyses of epidemiologic studies to obtain risk factor effect sizes for disease-specific mortality. We used epidemiologic methods for multiple risk factors to estimate the effects of current exposure to these risk factors on death rates, and life table methods to estimate effects on life expectancy. Asians had the lowest mean body mass index, fasting plasma glucose, and smoking; whites had the lowest systolic blood pressure (SBP). SBP was highest in blacks, especially in the rural South—5–7 mmHg higher than whites. The other three risk factors were highest in Western Native Americans, Southern low-income rural blacks, and/or low-income whites in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley. Nationally, these four risk factors reduced life expectancy at birth in 2005 by an estimated 4.9 y in men and 4.1 y in women. Life expectancy effects were smallest in Asians (M, 4.1 y; F, 3.6 y) and largest in Southern rural blacks (M, 6.7 y; F, 5.7 y). Standard deviation of life expectancies in the Eight Americas would decline by 0.50 y (18%) in men and 0.45 y (21%) in women if these risks had been reduced to optimal levels. Disparities in the probabilities of dying from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes at different ages would decline by 69%–80%; the corresponding reduction for probabilities of dying from cancers would be 29%–50%. Individually, smoking and high blood pressure had the largest effect on life expectancy disparities.
Conclusions
Disparities in smoking, blood pressure, blood glucose, and adiposity explain a significant proportion of disparities in mortality from cardiovascular diseases and cancers, and some of the life expectancy disparities in the US.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Life expectancy (a measure of longevity and premature death) and overall health have increased steadily in the United States over recent years. New drugs, new medical technologies, and better disease prevention have all helped Americans to lead longer, healthier lives. However, even now, some Americans live much longer and much healthier lives than others. Health disparities—differences in how often certain diseases occur and cause death in groups of people classified according to their ethnicity, geographical location, sex, or age—are extremely large and persistent in the US. On average, black men and women in the US live 6.3 and 4.5 years less, respectively, than their white counterparts; the gap between life expectancy in the US counties with the lowest and highest life expectancies is 18.4 years for men and 14.3 years for women. Disparities in deaths (mortality) from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (for example, heart attacks and stroke), cancers, and diabetes are known to be the main determinants of these life expectancy disparities.
Why Was This Study Done?
Preventable risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, excessive body fat (adiposity), and high blood sugar are responsible for many thousands of deaths from chronic diseases. Exposure to these risk factors varies widely by race, state of residence, and socioeconomic status. However, the effects of these observed disparities in exposure to modifiable risk factors on US life expectancy disparities have only been examined in selected groups of people and it is not known how multiple modifiable risk factors affect US health disparities. A better knowledge about how disparities in risk factor exposure contribute to health disparities is needed to ensure that prevention programs not only improve the average health status but also reduce health disparities. In this study, the researchers estimate the effects of smoking, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and adiposity on US life expectancy and on disparities in life expectancy and disease-specific deaths among the “Eight Americas,” population groups defined by race and by the location and socioeconomic characteristics of their county of residence.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted data on exposure to these risk factors from US national health surveys, information on deaths from different diseases in 2005 from the US National Center for Health Statistics, and estimates of how much each risk factor increases the risk of death from each disease from published studies. They then used modeling methods to estimate the effects of risk factor exposure on death rates and life expectancy. The Asian subgroup had the lowest adiposity, blood sugar, and smoking rates, they report, and the three white subgroups had the lowest blood pressure. Blood pressure was highest in the three black subgroups, whereas the other three risk factors were highest in Western Native Americans, Southern rural blacks, and whites living in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley. The effects on life expectancy of these factors were smallest in Asians and largest in Southern rural blacks but, overall, these risk factors reduced the life expectancy for men and women born in 2005 by 4.9 and 4.1 years, respectively. Other calculations indicate that if these four risk factors were reduced to optimal levels, disparities among the subgroups in deaths from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes and from cancers would be reduced by up to 80% and 50%, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that disparities in smoking, blood pressure, blood sugar, and adiposity among US racial and geographical subgroups explain a substantial proportion of the disparities in deaths from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancers among these subgroups. The disparities in risk factor exposure also explain some of the disparities in life expectancy. The remaining disparities in deaths and life expectancy could be the result of preventable risk factors not included in this study—one of its limitations is that it does not consider the effect of dietary fat, alcohol use, and dietary salt, which are major contributors to different diseases. Thus, suggest the researchers, reduced exposure to preventable risk factors through the implementation of relevant policies and programs should reduce life expectancy and mortality disparities in the US and yield health benefits at a national scale.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000248.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Office of Minority Health, and the US National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities all provide information on health disparities in the US
MedlinePlus provides links to information on health disparities and on healthy living (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of healthy living
The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society provide information on modifiable risk factors for patients and caregivers
Healthy People 2010 is a national framework designed to improve the health of people living in the US
The US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) collect information on risk factor exposures in the US
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000248
PMCID: PMC2843596  PMID: 20351772
3.  An oral health literacy intervention for Indigenous adults in a rural setting in Australia 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:461.
Background
Indigenous Australians suffer substantially poorer oral health than their non-Indigenous counterparts and new approaches are needed to address these disparities. Previous work in Port Augusta, South Australia, a regional town with a large Indigenous community, revealed associations between low oral health literacy scores and self-reported oral health outcomes. This study aims to determine if implementation of a functional, context-specific oral health literacy intervention improves oral health literacy-related outcomes measured by use of dental services, and assessment of oral health knowledge, oral health self-care and oral health- related self-efficacy.
Methods/design
This is a randomised controlled trial (RCT) that utilises a delayed intervention design. Participants are Indigenous adults, aged 18 years and older, who plan to reside in Port Augusta or a nearby community for the next two years. The intervention group will receive the intervention from the outset of the study while the control group will be offered the intervention 12 months following their enrolment in the study. The intervention consists of a series of five culturally sensitive, oral health education workshops delivered over a 12 month period by Indigenous project officers. Workshops consist of presentations, hands-on activities, interactive displays, group discussions and role plays. The themes addressed in the workshops are underpinned by oral health literacy concepts, and incorporate oral health-related self-efficacy, oral health-related fatalism, oral health knowledge, access to dental care and rights and entitlements as a patient. Data will be collected through a self-report questionnaire at baseline, at 12 months and at 24 months. The primary outcome measure is oral health literacy. Secondary outcome measures include oral health knowledge, oral health self-care, use of dental services, oral health-related self-efficacy and oral health-related fatalism.
Discussion
This study uses a functional, context-specific oral health literacy intervention to improve oral health literacy-related outcomes amongst rural-dwelling Indigenous adults. Outcomes of this study will have implications for policy and planning by providing evidence for the effectiveness of such interventions as well as provide a model for working with Indigenous communities.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-461
PMCID: PMC3416720  PMID: 22716205
4.  Measuring Disparities across the Distribution of Mental Health Care Expenditures 
Background
Previous mental health care disparities studies predominantly compare mean mental health care use across racial/ethnic groups, leaving policymakers with little information on disparities among those with a higher level of expenditures.
Aims of the Study
To identify racial/ethnic disparities among individuals at varying quantiles of mental health care expenditures. To assess whether disparities in the upper quantiles of expenditure differ by insurance status, income and education.
Methods
Data were analyzed from a nationally representative sample of white, black and Latino adults 18 years and older (n=83,878). Our dependent variable was total mental health care expenditure. We measured disparities in any mental health care expenditures, disparities in mental health care expenditure at the 95th, 97.5th, and 99th expenditure quantiles of the full population using quantile regression, and at the 50th, 75th, and 95th quantiles for positive users. In the full population, we tested interaction coefficients between race/ethnicity and income, insurance, and education levels to determine whether racial/ethnic disparities in the upper quantiles differed by income, insurance and education.
Results
Significant Black-white and Latino-white disparities were identified in any mental health care expenditures. In the full population, moving up the quantiles of mental health care expenditures, Black-White and Latino-White disparities were reduced but remained statistically significant. No statistically significant disparities were found in analyses of positive users only. The magnitude of black-white disparities was smaller among those enrolled in public insurance programs compared to the privately insured and uninsured in the 97.5th and 99th quantiles. Disparities persist in the upper quantiles among those in higher income categories and after excluding psychiatric inpatient and emergency department (ED) visits.
Discussion
Disparities exist in any mental health care and among those that use the most mental health care resources, but much of disparities seem to be driven by lack of access. The data do not allow us to disentangle whether disparities were related to white respondent’s overuse or underuse as compared to minority groups. The cross-sectional data allow us to make only associational claims about the role of insurance, income, and education in disparities. With these limitations in mind, we identified a persistence of disparities in overall expenditures even among those in the highest income categories, after controlling for mental health status and observable sociodemographic characteristics.
Implications for Health Care Provision and Use
Interventions are needed to equalize resource allocation to racial/ethnic minority patients regardless of their income, with emphasis on outreach interventions to address the disparities in access that are responsible for the no/low expenditures for even Latinos at higher levels of illness severity.
Implications for Health Policies
Increased policy efforts are needed to reduce the gap in health insurance for Latinos and improve outreach programs to enroll those in need into mental health care services.
Implications for Further Research
Future studies that conclusively disentangle overuse and appropriate use in these populations are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3662479  PMID: 23676411
5.  Eight Americas: Investigating Mortality Disparities across Races, Counties, and Race-Counties in the United States 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e260.
Background
The gap between the highest and lowest life expectancies for race-county combinations in the United States is over 35 y. We divided the race-county combinations of the US population into eight distinct groups, referred to as the “eight Americas,” to explore the causes of the disparities that can inform specific public health intervention policies and programs.
Methods and Findings
The eight Americas were defined based on race, location of the county of residence, population density, race-specific county-level per capita income, and cumulative homicide rate. Data sources for population and mortality figures were the Bureau of the Census and the National Center for Health Statistics. We estimated life expectancy, the risk of mortality from specific diseases, health insurance, and health-care utilization for the eight Americas. The life expectancy gap between the 3.4 million high-risk urban black males and the 5.6 million Asian females was 20.7 y in 2001. Within the sexes, the life expectancy gap between the best-off and the worst-off groups was 15.4 y for males (Asians versus high-risk urban blacks) and 12.8 y for females (Asians versus low-income southern rural blacks). Mortality disparities among the eight Americas were largest for young (15–44 y) and middle-aged (45–59 y) adults, especially for men. The disparities were caused primarily by a number of chronic diseases and injuries with well-established risk factors. Between 1982 and 2001, the ordering of life expectancy among the eight Americas and the absolute difference between the advantaged and disadvantaged groups remained largely unchanged. Self-reported health plan coverage was lowest for western Native Americans and low-income southern rural blacks. Crude self-reported health-care utilization, however, was slightly higher for the more disadvantaged populations.
Conclusions
Disparities in mortality across the eight Americas, each consisting of millions or tens of millions of Americans, are enormous by all international standards. The observed disparities in life expectancy cannot be explained by race, income, or basic health-care access and utilization alone. Because policies aimed at reducing fundamental socioeconomic inequalities are currently practically absent in the US, health disparities will have to be at least partly addressed through public health strategies that reduce risk factors for chronic diseases and injuries.
US mortality rates were calculated according to "race-county" units and divided into the "eight Americas", across which there are enormous disparities in life expectancy.
Editors' Summary
Background.
It has been recognized for a long time that the number of years that people in the United States can expect to live (“life expectancy”) varies enormously. For example, white Americans tend to live longer than black Americans, and life expectancy is much greater in some of the roughly 3,000 counties of the US than it is in others. However, there is a lack of information and understanding on how big a part is played in “health inequalities” by specific diseases and injuries, by risk factors (such as tobacco, alcohol, and obesity), and by variations in access to effective health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to find a way of dividing the people of the US into groups based on a small number of characteristics—such as location of county of residence, race, and income—that would help demonstrate the most important factors accounting for differences in life expectancy.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used figures from the US Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics to calculate mortality (death) rates for the years 1982–2001. They took note of the county of residence and of the race of all the people who died during that period of time. This enabled them to calculate the mortality rates for all 8,221 “race-county units” (all of the individuals of a given race in a given county). They experimented with different ways of combining the race-counties into a small and manageable number of groups. They eventually settled on the idea of there being “eight Americas,” defined on the basis of race-county, population density, income, and homicide rate. Each group contains millions or tens of millions of people. For each of the eight groups the researchers estimated life expectancy, the risk of mortality from specific diseases, the proportion of people who had health insurance, and people's routine encounters with health-care services. (The researchers also created maps of life expectancies for the US counties.) They describe their eight Americas as follows: Asians, northland low-income rural whites, Middle America, low-income whites in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley, western Native Americans, black Middle America, low-income southern rural blacks, and high-risk urban blacks.
Many striking differences in life expectancy were found between the eight groups. For example, in 2001, the life expectancy gap between the 3.4 million high-risk urban black males and the 5.6 million Asian females was nearly 21 years. Within the sexes, the life expectancy gap between the best-off and the worst-off groups was 15.4 years for males (Asians versus high-risk urban blacks) and 12.8 years for females (Asians versus low-income rural blacks in the South). The causes of death that were mainly responsible for these variations were various chronic diseases and injury. The gaps between best-off and worst-off were similar in 2001 to what they were in 1987.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Health inequalities in the US are large and are showing no sign of reducing. Social and economic reforms would certainly help change the situation. At the same time, the public health system should also improve the way in which it deals with risk factors for chronic diseases and injuries so that groups with the highest death rates receive larger benefits.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030260.
A Perspective article by Gregory Pappas in this issue of PLoS Medicine (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030357) discusses the methods of this piece of research and the findings
The American Medical Students' Association deals with the question “What are Health Disparities?” on its web site
The National Institutes of Health's “Strategic Research Plan to Reduce and Ultimately Eliminate Health Disparities” may be seen at the NIH web site
The Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a Web page called “Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities”
The issue of health inequalities in the US has also been dealt with by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030260
PMCID: PMC1564165  PMID: 16968116
6.  Professional Uncertainty and Disempowerment Responding to Ethnic Diversity in Health Care: A Qualitative Study 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e323.
Background
While ethnic disparities in health and health care are increasing, evidence on how to enhance quality of care and reduce inequalities remains limited. Despite growth in the scope and application of guidelines on “cultural competence,” remarkably little is known about how practising health professionals experience and perceive their work with patients from diverse ethnic communities. Using cancer care as a clinical context, we aimed to explore this with a range of health professionals to inform interventions to enhance quality of care.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a qualitative study involving 18 focus groups with a purposeful sample of 106 health professionals of differing disciplines, in primary and secondary care settings, working with patient populations of varying ethnic diversity in the Midlands of the UK. Data were analysed by constant comparison and we undertook processes for validation of analysis. We found that, as they sought to offer appropriate care, health professionals wrestled with considerable uncertainty and apprehension in responding to the needs of patients of ethnicities different from their own. They emphasised their perceived ignorance about cultural difference and were anxious about being culturally inappropriate, causing affront, or appearing discriminatory or racist. Professionals' ability to think and act flexibly or creatively faltered. Although trying to do their best, professionals' uncertainty was disempowering, creating a disabling hesitancy and inertia in their practice. Most professionals sought and applied a knowledge-based cultural expertise approach to patients, though some identified the risk of engendering stereotypical expectations of patients. Professionals' uncertainty and disempowerment had the potential to perpetuate each other, to the detriment of patient care.
Conclusions
This study suggests potential mechanisms by which health professionals may inadvertently contribute to ethnic disparities in health care. It identifies critical opportunities to empower health professionals to respond more effectively. Interventions should help professionals acknowledge their uncertainty and its potential to create inertia in their practice. A shift away from a cultural expertise model toward a greater focus on each patient as an individual may help.
From a qualitative study, Joe Kai and colleagues have identified opportunities to empower health professionals to respond more effectively to challenges in their work with patients from diverse ethnic communities.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Communities are increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity (belonging to a group of people defined by social characteristics such as cultural tradition or national origin) and race (belonging to a group identified by inherited physical characteristics). Although health professionals and governments are striving to ensure that everybody has the same access to health care, there is increasing evidence of ethnic inequalities in health-care outcomes. Some of these inequalities reflect intrinsic differences between groups of people—Ashkenazi Jews, for example, often carry an altered gene that increases their chance of developing aggressive breast cancer. Often, however, these differences reflect inequalities in the health care received by different ethnic groups. To improve this situation, “cultural competence” has been promoted over recent years. Cultural competence is the development of skills by individuals and organizations that allow them to work effectively with people from different cultures. Health professionals are now taught about ethnic differences in health beliefs and practices, religion, and communication styles to help them provide the best service to all their patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
Numerous guidelines aim to improve cultural competency but little is known about how health professionals experience and perceive their work with patients from diverse ethnic groups. Is their behavior influenced by ethnicity in ways that might contribute to health care disparities? For example, do doctors sometimes avoid medical examinations for fear of causing offence because of cultural differences? If more were known about how health professionals handle ethnic diversity (a term used here to include both ethnicity and race) it might be possible to reduce ethnic inequalities in health care. In this qualitative study, the researchers have explored how health professionals involved in cancer care are affected by working with ethnically diverse patients. A qualitative study is one that collects nonquantitative data such as how doctors “feel” about treating people of different ethnic backgrounds; a quantitative study might compare clinical outcomes in different ethnic groups.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 106 doctors, nurses, and other health-related professionals from different health-service settings in the Midlands, an ethnically diverse region of the UK. They organized 18 focus groups in which the health professionals described their experiences of caring for people from ethnic minority backgrounds. The participants were encouraged to recall actual cases and to identify what they saw as problems and strengths in their interactions with these patients. The researchers found that the health professionals wrestled with many challenges when providing health care for patients from diverse ethnic backgrounds. These challenges included problems with language and with general communication (for example, deciding when it was acceptable to touch a patient to show empathy). Health professionals also worried they did not know enough about cultural differences. As a result, they said they often felt uncertain of their ability to avoid causing affront or appearing racist. This uncertainty, the researchers report, disempowered the health professionals, sometimes making them hesitate or fail to do what was best for their patient.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal that health professionals often experience considerable uncertainty when caring for ethnically diverse patients, even after training in cultural competency. They also show that this uncertainty can lead to hesitancy and inertia, which might contribute to ethnic health care inequalities. Because the study participants were probably already interested in ethnic diversity and health care, interviews with other health professionals (and investigations of patient experiences) are needed to confirm these findings. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest several interventions that might reduce health care inequalities caused by ethnic diversity. For example, health professionals should be encouraged to recognize their uncertainty and should have access to more information and training about ethnic differences. In addition, there should be a shift in emphasis away from relying on knowledge-based cultural information towards taking an “ethnographic” approach. In other words, health professionals should be helped to feel able to ask their patients about what matters most to them as individuals about their illness and treatment.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040323.
Information on cultural competence and health care is available from the US National Center for Cultural Competence (in English and Spanish) and DiversityRx
PROCEED (Professionals Responding to Cancer in Ethnic Diversity) is a multimedia training tool for educators within the health and allied professions developed from the results of this study; a press release on PROCEED is available from the University of Nottingham
Transcultural Health Care Practice: An educational resource for nurses and health care practitioners is available on the web site of the UK Royal College of Nursing
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040323
PMCID: PMC2071935  PMID: 18001148
7.  The Fall and Rise of US Inequities in Premature Mortality: 1960–2002 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e46.
Background
Debates exist as to whether, as overall population health improves, the absolute and relative magnitude of income- and race/ethnicity-related health disparities necessarily increase—or derease. We accordingly decided to test the hypothesis that health inequities widen—or shrink—in a context of declining mortality rates, by examining annual US mortality data over a 42 year period.
Methods and Findings
Using US county mortality data from 1960–2002 and county median family income data from the 1960–2000 decennial censuses, we analyzed the rates of premature mortality (deaths among persons under age 65) and infant death (deaths among persons under age 1) by quintiles of county median family income weighted by county population size. Between 1960 and 2002, as US premature mortality and infant death rates declined in all county income quintiles, socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequities in premature mortality and infant death (both relative and absolute) shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for US populations of color; thereafter, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences barely changed in magnitude. Had all persons experienced the same yearly age-specific premature mortality rates as the white population living in the highest income quintile, between 1960 and 2002, 14% of the white premature deaths and 30% of the premature deaths among populations of color would not have occurred.
Conclusions
The observed trends refute arguments that health inequities inevitably widen—or shrink—as population health improves. Instead, the magnitude of health inequalities can fall or rise; it is our job to understand why.
Nancy Krieger and colleagues found evidence of decreasing, and then increasing or stagnating, socioeconomic and racial inequities in US premature mortality and infant death from 1960 to 2002.
Editors' Summary
Background
One of the biggest aims of public health advocates and governments is to improve the health of the population. Improving health increases people's quality of life and helps the population be more economically productive. But within populations are often persistent differences (usually called “disparities” or “inequities”) in the health of different subgroups—between women and men, different income groups, and people of different races/ethnicities, for example. Researchers study these differences so that policy makers and the broader public can be informed about what to do to intervene. For example, if we know that the health of certain subgroups of the population—such as the poor—is staying the same or even worsening as the overall health of the population is improving, policy makers could design programs and devote resources to specifically target the poor.
To study health disparities, researchers use both relative and absolute measures. Relative inequities refer to ratios, while absolute inequities refer to differences. For example, if one group's average income level increases from $1,000 to $10,000 and another group's from $2,000 to $20,000, the relative inequality between the groups stays the same (i.e., the ratio of incomes between the two groups is still 2) but the absolute difference between the two groups has increased from $1,000 to $10,000.
Examining the US population, Nancy Krieger and colleagues looked at trends over time in both relative and absolute differences in mortality between people in different income groups and between whites and people of color.
Why Was This Study Done?
There has been a lot of debate about whether disparities have been widening or narrowing as overall population health improves. Some research has found that both total health and health disparities are getting better with time. Other research has shown that overall health gains mask worsening disparities—such that the rich get healthier while the poor get sicker.
Having access to more data over a longer time frame meant that Krieger and colleagues could provide a more complete picture of this sometimes contradictory story. It also meant they could test their hypothesis about whether, as population health improves, health inequities necessarily widen or shrink within the time period between the 1960s through the 1990s during which certain events and policies likely would have had an impact on the mortality trends in that country.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to investigate health inequities, the authors chose to look at two common measures of population health: rates of premature mortality (dying before the age of 65 years) and rates of infant mortality (death before the age of 1).
To determine mortality rates, the authors used death statistics data from different counties, which are routinely collected by state and national governments. To be able to rank mortality rates for different income groups, they used data on the median family incomes of people living within those counties (meaning half the families had income above, and half had incomes below, the median value). They calculated mortality rates for the total population and for whites versus people of color. They used data from 1960 through 2002. They compared rates for 1966–1980 with two other time periods: 1960–1965 and 1981–2002. They also examined trends in the annual mortality rates and in the annual relative and absolute disparites in these rates by county income level.
Over the whole period 1960–2002, the authors found that premature mortality (death before the age of 65) and infant mortality (death before the age of 1) decreased for all income groups. But they also found that disparities between income groups and between whites and people of color were not the same over this time period. In fact, the economic disparities narrowed then widened. First, they shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for Americans of color. After 1980, however, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences did not change. The authors conclude that if all people in the US population experienced the same health gains as the most advantaged did during these 42 years (i.e., as the whites in the highest income groups), 14% of the premature deaths among whites and 30% of the premature deaths among people of color would have been prevented.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings provide an overview of the trends in inequities in premature and infant mortality over a long period of time. Different explanations for these trends can now be tested. The authors discuss several potential reasons for these trends, including generally rising incomes across America and changes related to specific diseases, such as the advent of HIV/AIDS, changes in smoking habits, and better management of cancer and cardiovascular disease. But they find that these do not explain the fall then rise of inequities. Instead, the authors suggest that explanations lie in the social programs of the 1960s and the subsequent roll-back of some of these programmes in the 1980s. The US “War on Poverty,” civil rights legislation, and the establishment of Medicare occurred in the mid 1960s, which were intended to reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequalities and improve access to health care. In the 1980s there was a general cutting back of welfare state provisions in America, which included cuts to public health and antipoverty programs, tax relief for the wealthy, and worsening inequity in the access to and quality of health care. Together, these wider events could explain the fall then rise trends in mortality disparities.
The authors say their findings are important to inform and help monitor the progress of various policies and programmes, including those such as the Healthy People 2010 initiative in America, which aims to increase the quality and years of healthy life and decrease health disparities by the end of this decade.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed. 0050046.
Healthy People 2010 was created by the US Department of Health and Human Services along with scientists inside and outside of government and includes a comprehensive set of disease prevention and health promotion objectives for the US to achieve by 2010, with two overarching goals: to increase quality and years of healthy life and to eliminate health disparities
Johan Mackenbach and colleagues provide an overview of mortality inequalities in six Western European countries—Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England/Wales, and Italy—and conclude that eliminating mortality inequalities requires that more cardiovascular deaths among lower socioeconomic groups be prevented, as well as more attention be paid to rising death rates of lung cancer, breast cancer, respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disease, and injuries among women and men in the lower income groups.
The WHO Health for All program promotes health equity
A primer on absolute versus relative differences is provided by the American College of Physicians
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050046
PMCID: PMC2253609  PMID: 18303941
8.  An Examination of Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Children’s Oral Health in the United States 
Objective
Assess the extent apparent racial/ethnic disparities in children’s oral health and oral health care are explained by factors other than race/ethnicity.
Data Source
2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, for children 2–17 years (N=82,020). Outcomes included parental reports of child’s oral health status, receipt of preventive dental care, and delayed dental care/unmet need. Model-based survey data analysis examined racial/ethnic disparities, controlling for other child, family, and community/state (contextual) factors.
Results
Unadjusted results show large oral health disparities by race/ethnicity. Compared to non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks were markedly more likely to be reported in only fair/poor oral health (odds ratios (ORs) [95% confidence intervals] 4.3 [4.0–4.6], 2.2 [2.0–2.4], respectively), lack preventive care (ORs 1.9 [1.8–2.0], 1.4 [1.3–1.5]), and experience delayed care/unmet need (ORs 1.5 [1.3–1.7], 1.4 [1.3–1.5]). Adjusting for child, family, and community/state factors reduced or eliminated racial/ethnic disparities. Adjusted ORs (AORs) for Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks attenuated for fair/poor oral health, to 1.6 [1.5–1.8] and 1.2 [1.1–1.4], respectively. Adjustment eliminated disparities in each group for lacking preventive care (AORs 1.0 [0.9–1.1], 1.1 [1.1–1.2]), and in Hispanics for delayed care/unmet need (AOR 1.0). Among non-Hispanic Blacks, adjustment reversed the disparity for delayed care/unmet need (AOR 0.6 [0.6–0.7]).
Conclusions
Racial/ethnic disparities in children’s oral health status and access were found to be attributable largely to determinants such as socioeconomic and health insurance factors. Efforts to decrease disparities may be more efficacious if targeted at the social, economic, and other factors associated with minority racial/ethnic status, and may also have collateral positive effects on sectors of the majority population who share similar social, economic and cultural characteristics.
doi:10.1111/j.1752-7325.2012.00367.x
PMCID: PMC3702186  PMID: 22970900
children; oral health; race/ethnic disparities
9.  Ethnic Disparities in Self-Reported Oral Health Status and Access to Care among Older Adults in NYC 
There is a growing burden of oral disease among older adults that is most significantly borne by minorities, the poor, and immigrants. Yet, national attention to oral heath disparities has focused almost exclusively on children, resulting in large gaps in our knowledge about the oral health risks of older adults and their access to care. The projected growth of the minority and immigrant elderly population as a proportion of older adults heightens the urgency of exploring and addressing factors associated with oral health-related disparities. In 2008, the New York City Health Indicators Project (HIP) conducted a survey of a representative sample of 1,870 adults over the age of 60 who attended a random selection of 56 senior centers in New York City. The survey included questions related to oral health status. This study used the HIP database to examine differences in self-reported dental status, dental care utilization, and dental insurance, by race/ethnicity, among community-dwelling older adults. Non-Hispanic White respondents reported better dental health, higher dental care utilization, and higher satisfaction with dental care compared to all other racial/ethnic groups. Among minority older adults, Chinese immigrants were more likely to report poor dental health, were less likely to report dental care utilization and dental insurance, and were less satisfied with their dental care compared to all other racial/ethnic groups. Language fluency was significantly related to access to dental care among Chinese immigrants. Among a diverse community-dwelling population of older adults in New York City, we found significant differences by race/ethnicity in factors related to oral health. Greater attention is needed in enhancing the cultural competency of providers, addressing gaps in oral health literacy, and reducing language barriers that impede access to care.
doi:10.1007/s11524-011-9555-8
PMCID: PMC3157507  PMID: 21850607
Oral health; Older adults; Access to care
10.  Socio-demographic disparity in oral health among the poor: a cross sectional study of early adolescents in Kilwa district, Tanzania 
BMC Oral Health  2010;10:7.
Background
There is a lack of studies considering social disparity in oral health emanating from adolescents in low-income countries. This study aimed to assess socio-demographic disparities in clinical- and self reported oral health status and a number of oral health behaviors. The extent to which oral health related behaviors might account for socio-demographic disparities in oral health status was also examined.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted in Kilwa district in 2008. One thousand seven hundred and forty five schoolchildren completed an interview and a full mouth clinical examination. Caries experience was recorded using WHO criteria, whilst type of treatment need was categorized using the ART approach.
Results
The majority of students were caries free (79.8%) and presented with a low need for dental treatment (89.3%). Compared to their counterparts in opposite groups, rural residents and those from less poor households presented more frequently with caries experience (DMT>0), high need for dental treatment and poor oral hygiene behavior, but were less likely to report poor oral health status. Stepwise logistic regressions revealed that social and behavioral variables varied systematically with caries experience, high need for dental treatment and poor self reported oral health. Socio-demographic disparities in oral health outcomes persisted after adjusting for oral health behaviors.
Conclusions
Socio-demographic disparities in oral health outcomes and oral health behaviors do exist. Socio-demographic disparities in oral health outcomes were marginally accounted for by oral health behaviors. Developing policies and programs targeting both social and individual determinants of oral health should be an urgent public health strategy in Tanzania.
doi:10.1186/1472-6831-10-7
PMCID: PMC2868779  PMID: 20406452
11.  Addressing Asthma Health Disparities: A Multilevel Challenge 
Substantial research has documented pervasive disparities in the prevalence, severity, and morbidity of asthma among minority populations compared to non-Latino whites. The underlying causes of these disparities are not well understood, and as a result, the leverage points to address them remain unclear. A multilevel framework for integrating research in asthma health disparities is proposed in order to advance both future research and clinical practice. The components of the proposed model include health care policies and regulations, operation of the health care system, provider/clinician-level factors, social/environmental factors, and individual/family attitudes and behaviors. The body of research suggests that asthma disparities have multiple, complex and inter-related sources. Disparities occur when individual, environmental, health system, and provider factors interact with one another over time. Given that the causes of asthma disparities are complex and multilevel, clinical strategies to address these disparities must therefore be comparably multilevel and target many aspects of asthma care. Clinical Implications: Several strategies that could be applied in clinical settings to reduce asthma disparities are described including the need for routine assessment of the patient’s beliefs, financial barriers to disease management, and health literacy, and the provision of cultural competence training and communication skills to health care provider groups.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2009.02.043
PMCID: PMC2693441  PMID: 19447484
Asthma disparities; multi-level model of asthma disparities; clinical recommendations
12.  Trends in racial/ethnic disparities in medical and oral health, access to care, and use of services in US children: has anything changed over the years? 
Introduction
The 2010 Census revealed the population of Latino and Asian children grew by 5.5 million, while the population of white children declined by 4.3 million from 2000-2010, and minority children will outnumber white children by 2020. No prior analyses, however, have examined time trends in racial/ethnic disparities in children’s health and healthcare. The study objectives were to identify racial/ethnic disparities in medical and oral health, access to care, and use of services in US children, and determine whether these disparities have changed over time.
Methods
The 2003 and 2007 National Surveys of Children’s Health were nationally representative telephone surveys of parents of 193,995 children 0-17 years old (N = 102,353 in 2003 and N = 91,642 in 2007). Thirty-four disparities indicators were examined for white, African-American, Latino, Asian/Pacific-Islander, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and multiracial children. Multivariable analyses were performed to adjust for nine relevant covariates, and Z-scores to examine time trends.
Results
Eighteen disparities occurred in 2007 for ≥1 minority group. The number of indicators for which at least one racial/ethnic group experienced disparities did not significantly change between 2003-2007, nor did the total number of specific disparities (46 in 2007). The disparities for one subcategory (use of services), however, did decrease (by 82%). Although 15 disparities decreased over time, two worsened, and 10 new disparities arose.
Conclusions
Minority children continue to experience multiple disparities in medical and oral health and healthcare. Most disparities persisted over time. Although disparities in use of services decreased, 10 new disparities arose in 2007. Study findings suggest that urgent policy solutions are needed to eliminate these disparities, including collecting racial/ethnic and language data on all patients, monitoring and publicly disclosing disparities data annually, providing health-insurance coverage and medical and dental homes for all children, making disparities part of the national healthcare quality discussion, ensuring all children receive needed pediatric specialty care, and more research and innovative solutions.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-10
PMCID: PMC3560223  PMID: 23339566
Disparities; Minorities; Children; Race; Ethnicity; Blacks; Hispanics; Asians/Pacific islanders; Native Americans; Multiracial
13.  Using Evidence-Based Internet Interventions to Reduce Health Disparities Worldwide 
Health disparities are a persistent problem worldwide. A major obstacle to reducing health disparities is reliance on “consumable interventions,” that is, interventions that, once used, cannot be used again. To reduce health disparities, interventions are required that can be used again and again without losing their therapeutic power, that can reach people even if local health care systems do not provide them with needed health care, and that can be shared globally without taking resources away from the populations where the interventions were developed.
This paper presents the argument that automated self-help evidence-based Internet interventions meet the above criteria and can contribute to the reduction of health disparities worldwide. Proof-of-concept studies show that evidence-based Internet interventions can reach hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and could be used in public sector settings to augment existing offerings and provide services not currently available (such as prevention interventions). This paper presents a framework for systematically filling in a matrix composed of columns representing common health problems and rows representing languages.
To bring the benefits of evidence-based Internet interventions to the underserved, public sector clinics should establish eHealth resource centers, through which patients could be screened online for common disorders and provided with evidence-based Internet intervention services not currently available at the clinics. These resources should be available in the patients’ languages, in formats that do not require literacy, and that can be accessed with mobile devices. Such evidence-based Internet interventions should then be shared with public sector clinics as well as individuals anywhere in the world.
Finally, this paper addresses sustainability and describes a continuum of evidence-based Internet interventions to share nationally and across the world. This approach to expanding health service delivery will significantly contribute to a reduction of health disparities worldwide, adding to the often-quoted slogan, “Think globally, act locally,” a third line: “Share globally.”
doi:10.2196/jmir.1463
PMCID: PMC3057307  PMID: 21169162
Internet; online treatment; prevention; clinical trials; health disparities; consumable interventions; smoking; depression; public health; evidence-based; Internet interventions
14.  Minimising barriers to dental care in older people 
BMC Oral Health  2008;8:7.
Background
Older people are increasingly retaining their natural teeth but at higher risk of oral disease with resultant impact on their quality of life. Socially deprived people are more at risk of oral disease and yet less likely to take up care. Health organisations in England and Wales are exploring new ways to commission and provide dental care services in general and for vulnerable groups in particular. This study was undertaken to investigate barriers to dental care perceived by older people in socially deprived inner city area where uptake of care was low and identify methods for minimising barriers in older people in support of oral health.
Methods
A qualitative dual-methodological approach, utilising both focus groups and individual interviews, was used in this research. Participants, older people and carers of older people, were recruited using purposive sampling through day centres and community groups in the inner city boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham in South London. A topic guide was utilised to guide qualitative data collection. Informants' views were recorded on tape and in field notes. The data were transcribed and analysed using Framework Methodology.
Results
Thirty-nine older people and/or their carers participated in focus groups. Active barriers to dental care in older people fell into five main categories: cost, fear, availability, accessibility and characteristics of the dentist. Lack of perception of a need for dental care was a common 'passive barrier' amongst denture wearers in particular. The cost of dental treatment, fear of care and perceived availability of dental services emerged to influence significantly dental attendance. Minimising barriers involves three levels of action to be taken: individual actions (such as persistence in finding available care following identification of need), system changes (including reducing costs, improving information, ensuring appropriate timing and location of care, and good patient management) and societal issues (such as reducing isolation and loneliness). Older people appeared to place greater significance on system and societal change than personal action.
Conclusion
Older people living within the community in an inner city area where NHS dental care is available face barriers to dental care. Improving access to care involves actions at individual, societal and system level. The latter includes appropriate management of older people by clinicians, policy change to address NHS charges; consideration of when, where and how dental care is provided; and clear information for older people and their carers on available local dental services, dental charges and care pathways.
doi:10.1186/1472-6831-8-7
PMCID: PMC2335092  PMID: 18366785
15.  Oral health-related cultural beliefs for four racial/ethnic groups: Assessment of the literature 
BMC Oral Health  2008;8:26.
Background
The purpose of this study was to assess information available in the dental literature on oral health-related cultural beliefs. In the US, as elsewhere, many racial/ethnic minority groups shoulder a disproportionate burden of oral disease. Cultural beliefs, values and practices are often implicated as causes of oral health disparities, yet little is known about the breadth or adequacy of literature about cultural issues that could support these assertions. Hence, this rigorous assessment was conducted of work published in English on cultural beliefs and values in relation to oral health status and dental practice. Four racial/ethnic groups in the US (African-American, Chinese, Filipino and Hispanic/Latino) were chosen as exemplar populations.
Methods
The dental literature published in English for the period 1980–2006 noted in the electronic database PUBMED was searched, using keywords and MeSH headings in different combinations for each racial/ethnic group to identify eligible articles. To be eligible the title and abstract when available had to describe the oral health-related cultural knowledge or orientation of the populations studied.
Results
Overall, the majority of the literature on racial/ethnic groups was epidemiologic in nature, mainly demonstrating disparities in oral health rather than the oral beliefs or practices of these groups. A total of 60 relevant articles were found: 16 for African-American, 30 for Chinese, 2 for Filipino and 12 for Hispanic/Latino populations. Data on beliefs and practices from these studies has been abstracted, compiled and assessed. Few research-based studies were located. Articles lacked adequate identification of groups studied, used limited methods and had poor conceptual base.
Conclusion
The scant information available from the published dental and medical literature provides at best a rudimentary framework of oral health related ideas and beliefs for specific populations.
doi:10.1186/1472-6831-8-26
PMCID: PMC2566974  PMID: 18793438
16.  Disparities, race/ethnicity and access to pediatric kidney transplantation 
Purpose of review
Kidney transplantation remains the optimal treatment for children with end-stage renal disease; yet, in the United States, profound differences in access to transplant persist, with black children experiencing significantly reduced access to transplant compared with white children. The reasons for these disparities remain poorly understood. Several recent studies provide new insights into the interplay of socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic disparities and access to pediatric kidney transplantation.
Recent findings
New evidence suggests that disparities are more pronounced in access to living vs. deceased donors. National allocation policies have mitigated racial differences in pediatric deceased donor kidney transplant (DDKT) access after waitlisting. However, disparities in access to DDKT are stark for minority emerging adults, who lose pediatric priority allocation. Although absence of health insurance poses an important barrier to transplant, even after adjustment for insurance status and neighborhood poverty, disparities persist. Differential access to care and unjust social structures are posited as important modifiable barriers to achieving equity in pediatric transplant access.
Summary
Future approaches to overcome disparities in pediatric kidney transplant access must focus on the continuum of the transplant process, including equitable health care access. Public health advocacy efforts to promote national policies that address disparate multilevel socioeconomic factors are essential.
doi:10.1097/MNH.0b013e32835fe55b
PMCID: PMC3950976  PMID: 23508056
disparities; pediatric; transplant
17.  Aboriginal medical services cure more than illness: a qualitative study of how Indigenous services address the health impacts of discrimination in Brisbane communities 
Background
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders persistently experience a significantly lower standard of health in comparison to non-Indigenous Australians. The factors contributing to this disparity are complex and entrenched in a history of social inequality, disempowerment, poverty, dispossession and discrimination. Aboriginal medical services (AMS) provide a culturally appropriate alternative to mainstream medical services as a means to address this health disparity and also advocate for Indigenous rights and empowerment. This study provides a vignette of lay perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders accessing community and government controlled AMS in Brisbane, Queensland with the intention of identifying self-perceived health determinants to inform the post-2015 international development goals.
Methods
Focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews were held with clients of a government-controlled AMS and an Aboriginal community controlled health service (ACCHS) in order to identify their self-identified essential health needs. Conversations were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and de-identified for analysis. Common themes were identified to highlight important issues around community health needs, how they can be addressed and what lessons can be extended to inform the post-2015 development goals.
Findings and discussion
Participants acknowledge the complexity of health determinants faced by their peoples. Thematic analysis highlighted the pervasive influence of racism through many perceived health determinants; resulting in reduced healthcare seeking behaviour, unhealthy lifestyles and mental health issues. Participants emphasised the marked health improvements seen due to the establishment of Aboriginal medical services in their communities and the importance of the AMS’ role in addressing the negative effects of discrimination on Indigenous health.
Conclusion
It is concluded from this study that AMS are crucial in addressing the negative impacts of continued discrimination on Indigenous health by providing comprehensive, culturally appropriate, community empowering health services. Such services improve Indigenous healthcare seeking rates, provide invaluable health education services and address mental health concerns in communities and must be supported in order to address health inequalities in Australia. Community driven and culturally informed health services should be encouraged globally to address health disparities.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-56
PMCID: PMC4283121  PMID: 25301439
Discrimination; Indigenous; Aboriginal; Community controlled health services; Healthcare-seeking behaviour; Fear; Mental health; Australia
18.  Alaska Dental Health Aide Program 
International Journal of Circumpolar Health  2013;72:10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21198.
Background
In 1999, An Oral Health Survey of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Dental Patients found that 79% of 2- to 5-year-olds had a history of tooth decay. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in collaboration with Alaska's Tribal Health Organizations (THO) developed a new and diverse dental workforce model to address AI/AN oral health disparities.
Objectives
This paper describes the workforce model and some experience to date of the Dental Health Aide (DHA) Initiative that was introduced under the federally sanctioned Community Health Aide Program in Alaska. These new dental team members work with THO dentists and hygienists to provide education, prevention and basic restorative services in a culturally appropriate manner.
Results
The DHA Initiative introduced 4 new dental provider types to Alaska: the Primary Dental Health Aide, the Expanded Function Dental Health Aide, the Dental Health Aide Hygienist and the Dental Health Aide Therapist. The scope of practice between the 4 different DHA providers varies vastly along with the required training and education requirements. DHAs are certified, not licensed, providers. Recertification occurs every 2 years and requires the completion of 24 hours of continuing education and continual competency evaluation.
Conclusions
Dental Health Aides provide evidence-based prevention programs and dental care that improve access to oral health care and help address well-documented oral health disparities.
doi:10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21198
PMCID: PMC3753165  PMID: 23984306
dental workforce; dental mid-level providers; dental therapist
19.  Addressing Children's Oral Health in the New Millennium: Trends in the Dental Workforce 
Academic pediatrics  2009;9(6):433.
The Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health (SGROH) and the Call to Action to Promote Oral Health outlined the need to increase the diversity, capacity and flexibility of the dental workforce to reduce oral health disparities. This paper provides an update on dental workforce trends since the SGROH in the context of children's oral health needs.
Major challenges remain to ensure a workforce that is adequate to address the needs of all children. The dentist to population ratio is declining, while mal-distribution of dentists continues for rural and underserved communities. The diversity of the dental workforce has only improved slightly, while the diversity of the pediatric population has increased substantially. More pediatric dentists have been trained, and dental educational programs are preparing students for practice in underserved areas, but the impact of these efforts on underserved children is uncertain. Other workforce developments with the potential to improve children's oral health include: enhanced training in children's oral health for general dentists; expanded scope of practice for allied dental health professionals; new dental practitioners including the dental health aid therapist; and increased engagement of pediatricians and other medical practitioners in children's oral health.
The evidence for increasing caries experience in young children points to the need for continued efforts to bolster the oral health workforce. However, workforce strategies alone will not be sufficient to change this situation. Requisite policy changes, educational efforts and strong partnerships with communities will be needed to effect substantive changes in children's oral health.
doi:10.1016/j.acap.2009.09.003
PMCID: PMC2814077  PMID: 19854121
Dental Workforce; Workforce Trends
20.  An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e448.
Background
Migrant workers in the United States have extremely poor health. This paper aims to identify ways in which the social context of migrant farm workers affects their health and health care.
Methods and Findings
This qualitative study employs participant observation and interviews on farms and in clinics throughout 15 months of migration with a group of indigenous Triqui Mexicans in the western US and Mexico. Study participants include more than 130 farm workers and 30 clinicians. Data are analyzed utilizing grounded theory, accompanied by theories of structural violence, symbolic violence, and the clinical gaze. The study reveals that farm working and housing conditions are organized according to ethnicity and citizenship. This hierarchy determines health disparities, with undocumented indigenous Mexicans having the worst health. Yet, each group is understood to deserve its place in the hierarchy, migrant farm workers often being blamed for their own sicknesses.
Conclusions
Structural racism and anti-immigrant practices determine the poor working conditions, living conditions, and health of migrant workers. Subtle racism serves to reduce awareness of this social context for all involved, including clinicians. The paper concludes with strategies toward improving migrant health in four areas: health disparities research, clinical interactions with migrant laborers, medical education, and policy making.
A qualitative study of migrant Triqui Mexicans in the western US and Mexico shows that structural racism and anti-immigrant practices lead to poor working and living conditions, and poor health.
Editors' Summary
Background.
For centuries, recent immigrants have experienced poorer living and working conditions than more established inhabitants, which in turn means that the health of immigrants is often worse. Immigrants often take on the very lowest-paid jobs. One might suppose that in more recent years the increasing prosperity of countries such as the United States and those of western Europe would have reversed this trend. But as recently as 2005 the New York–based Human Rights Watch published a report entitled “Blood, Sweat and Fear,” which documented appalling conditions for the mostly immigrant workers in the US meat and poultry industry. In the UK also, legislation has recently been introduced to try to regulate the activity of “gang masters” who control large groups of immigrant workers. This legislation was triggered by public horror about the deaths in 2004 of 21 immigrant cockle pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay in Lancashire. A group of workers at particular risk of poor conditions because of the seasonal and uncertain patterns of work are those who work as farm laborers.
Why Was This Study Done?
There are relatively few studies that have looked in detail at the pattern of health problems among migrant farm workers in the US. Understanding the working conditions of these workers would be of help in understanding more about their health problems and, in particular, how to prevent them. One problem is that few of these workers are seen in the usual health-care settings; few of them have health insurance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The paper's author spent 15 months with a group of indigenous Triqui Mexicans as they migrated around the western US and Mexico working on farms. He used a type of research called qualitative research, which involved observing and interviewing more than 130 farm workers and 30 health workers on farms and in clinics. He found that working and housing conditions were organized according to ethnicity and citizenship, and that there was an unofficial hierarchy, with undocumented indigenous Mexicans having the worst health. Even worse, migrant farm workers were often blamed for their sicknesses by those in charge of them or those from whom they sought help.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The author concludes that “structural racism and anti-immigrant practices determine the poor working conditions, living conditions, and health of migrant workers.” Furthermore, it seems that “subtle” racism among all involved, including clinicians, reduces awareness and perhaps even allows tacit acceptance of these patterns of health. It seems that targets for specific health interventions for these workers will need to be closely integrated with a broader approach to improving migrant health including medical education and policymaking.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030448.
Migration Dialogue regularly consolidates news related to immigration around the world
Global Exchange has information related to fair trade, CAFTA, and other related current events
United Farm Workers has information related to working conditions of migrant laborers
PCUN has information related to migrant laborers in the Pacific Northwest
The Border Action Network has information related to the US-Mexico border
Border Links provides education and experiential learning related to the US-Mexico Border
Tierra Nueva and the Peoples Seminary provide social services for migrant laborers in the Pacific Northwest and education related to the lives of migrant workers
The Pesticide Action Network of North America provides information related to pesticides and health
The Pesticide Education Center provides detailed lists of the contents of pesticides and their health effects
The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies conducts research and education projects related to international migration
Human Rights Watch publishes and campaigns on many issues, including conditions for workers, such as that on the US meat-packing industry
European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations has a range of information concerning migrants
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030448
PMCID: PMC1621098  PMID: 17076567
21.  Moving Upstream: How Interventions that Address the Social Determinants of Health can Improve Health and Reduce Disparities 
There is considerable scientific and policy interest in reducing socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in healthcare and health status. Currently, much of the policy focus around reducing health disparities has been geared towards improving access, coverage, quality and the intensity of healthcare. However, health is more a function of lifestyles linked to living and working conditions than of healthcare. Accordingly, effective efforts to improve health and reduce gaps in health need to pay greater attention to addressing the social determinants of health within and outside of the healthcare system. This paper highlights research evidence documenting that tackling the social determinants of health can lead to reductions in health disparities. It focuses both on interventions within the healthcare system that address some of the social determinants of health, as well as, interventions in upstream factors such as housing, neighborhood conditions and increased socioeconomic status that can lead to improvements in health. The studies reviewed highlight the importance of systematic evaluation of social and economic policies that might have health consequences and the need for policy makers, healthcare providers, and leaders across multiple sectors of society to apply currently available knowledge to improve the underlying conditions that impact the health of populations.
doi:10.1097/01.PHH.0000338382.36695.42
PMCID: PMC3431152  PMID: 18843244
racial disparities; socioeconomic disparities; interventions; healthcare
22.  Enabling pathways to health equity: developing a framework for implementing social capital in practice 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:517.
Background
Mounting evidence linking aspects of social capital to health and wellbeing outcomes, in particular to reducing health inequities, has led to intense interest in social capital theory within public health in recent decades. As a result, governments internationally are designing interventions to improve health and wellbeing by addressing levels of social capital in communities. The application of theory to practice is uneven, however, reflecting differing views on the pathways between social capital and health, and divergent theories about social capital itself. Unreliable implementation may restrict the potential to contribute to health equity by this means, yet to date there has been limited investigation of how the theory is interpreted at the level of policy and then translated into practice.
Methods
The paper outlines a collaborative research project designed to address this knowledge deficit in order to inform more effective implementation. Undertaken in partnership with government departments, the study explored the application of social capital theory in programs designed to promote health and wellbeing in Adelaide, South Australia. It comprised three case studies of community-based practice, employing qualitative interviews and focus groups with community participants, practitioners, program managers and policy makers, to examine the ways in which the concept was interpreted and operationalized and identify the factors influencing success. These key lessons informed the development of practical resources comprising a guide for practitioners and briefing for policy makers.
Results
Overall the study showed that effective community projects can contribute to population health and wellbeing and reducing health inequities. Of specific relevance to this paper, however, is the finding that community projects rely for their effectiveness on a broader commitment expressed through policies and frameworks at the highest level of government decision making. In particular this relationship requires long term vision, endorsement for cross-sectoral work, well-developed relationships and theoretical and practical knowledge.
Conclusions
Attention to the practical application of social capital theory shows that community projects require structural support in their efforts to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequities. Sound community development techniques are essential but do not operate independently from frameworks and policies at the highest levels of government. Recognition of the interdependence of policy and practice will enable government to achieve these goals more effectively.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-517
PMCID: PMC3671136  PMID: 23714388
Social capital; Health inequities; Community development; Policy and practice; Health promotion
23.  Reducing and eliminating health disparities: a targeted approach. 
Health disparities have dominated recent discourse among public health and medical researchers. Ever since the United States began to compile health statistics, differences in health status have been noted between majority and non-majority populations. Myriad approaches have been undertaken in an attempt to reduce or eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health. However, the disparities continue to persist. We are at a point in our history where innovative strategies must be explored that will be more effective in addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health. In large part, health disparities exist as a result of inequitable distribution of goods, resources, services and power in America. We have learned that improvements in health cannot come about solely through primary and secondary interventions but rather through an examination of the availability of resources that would allow individuals to improve their health. The goal of this paper is to provide an overview of the contextual factors that affect health disparities, to integrate theory to address disparities and to provide recommendations to encourage systematic changes to eliminate health disparities. It is hoped that this paper will bring about a national discussion relating to addressing the real issues we face in reducing and ultimately eliminating health disparities.
PMCID: PMC2568579  PMID: 15719868
24.  A Strategy for Improving Health Disparities Education in Medicine 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2010;25(Suppl 2):160-163.
Introduction
A health disparities curriculum that uses evidence-based knowledge rooted in pedagogic theory is needed to educate health care providers to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse U.S. population.
Description
The Health Disparities Education: Beyond Cultural Competency Precourse, along with its accompanying Train the Trainer Guide: Health Disparities Education (2008), developed by the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) Disparities Task Force (DTF), is a comprehensive tool to facilitate developing, implementing and evaluating health disparities education. The curriculum includes five modules highlighting several fundamental concepts in health disparities, suggestions for teaching about health disparities in a wide range of settings and strategies for curriculum evaluation. The modules are Disparities Foundations, Teaching Disparities in the Clinical Setting, Disparities Beyond the Clinical Setting, Teaching about Disparities Through Community Involvement, and Curriculum Evaluation.
Evaluation
All five modules were delivered as a precourse at the 31st Annual SGIM Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA and received the “Best Precourse Award”. This award is given to the most highly rated precourse based on participant evaluations. The modules have also been adapted into a web-based guide that has been downloaded at least 59 times.
Conclusion
Ultimately, the modules are designed to develop a professional commitment to eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health care quality, promote an understanding of the role of health care providers in reducing health care disparities through comprehensive education and training, and provide a framework with which providers can address the causes of disparities in various educational settings.
doi:10.1007/s11606-010-1283-3
PMCID: PMC2847114  PMID: 20352512
health disparities; medical education; faculty development
25.  Determinants of health disparities between Italian regions 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:296.
Background
Among European countries, Italy is one of the countries where regional health disparities contribute substantially to socioeconomic health disparities. In this paper, we report on regional differences in self-reported poor health and explore possible determinants at the individual and regional levels in Italy.
Methods
We use data from the "Indagine Multiscopo sulle Famiglie", a survey of aspects of everyday life in the Italian population, to estimate multilevel logistic regressions that model poor self-reported health as a function of individual and regional socioeconomic factors. Next we use the causal step approach to test if living conditions, healthcare characteristics, social isolation, and health behaviors at the regional level mediate the relationship between regional socioeconomic factors and self-rated health.
Results
We find that residents living in regions with more poverty, more unemployment, and more income inequality are more likely to report poor health and that poor living conditions and private share of healthcare expenditures at the regional level mediate socioeconomic disparities in self-rated health among Italian regions.
Conclusion
The implications are that regional contexts matter and that regional policies in Italy have the potential to reduce health disparities by implementing interventions aimed at improving living conditions and access to quality healthcare.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-296
PMCID: PMC2902435  PMID: 20515482

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