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Fewer Than Two-Thirds of Americans Are Aware of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

By Jorge E. Bañales

A study finds that 59 percent of Americans are aware of racial and ethnic disparities facing African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos pointing to an increase in awareness over the last decade.

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) conducted the Trends in U.S. Public Awareness of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health (1999-2010) study from April to June 2010.

While the 2010 result show ed a slight decrease from the 60 percent awareness in 2009, overall results reflect a significant increase in Americans' awareness of racial and ethnic health disparities from 55 percent in 1999.

The study also found that 61 percent of Americans are aware of racial and ethnic health disparities facing Hispanic/Latinos.

Relative to perceptions of disparities impacting on African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) were generally perceived as doing just as well as Whites with only 18 percent of Americans aware of these health disparities.

While the results indicate the overall progress Americans have made in becoming aware about health disparities, the study also points out the considerable room for improvement in the efforts of OMH, its HHS and other Federal partners, as well as other public and private-sector stakeholders to increase Americans' awareness of racial and ethnic health disparitiesand the importance that health equity plays in the well-being of the nation.

The study was based on a national random sample of 3,159 telephone interviews with adults aged 18 and over, including 1,329 non-Hispanic Whites, 855 non-Hispanic African Americans, 591 Hispanic/Latinos, and 179 Asian American/Pacific Islanders.

It provides a comprehensive analysis of awareness among the U.S. public of health disparities that place a disproportionate burden of preventable disease and premature death on racial and ethnic minorities as compared to the rest of the U.S. population.

Findings from the study paint a broad picture of the extent to which the U.S. population is aware of racial and ethnic health disparities, and how these perceptions have changed over the last decade.

Overall, the data show that people are more aware of disparities in health care access, such as health insurance coverage, costs, and access to providers and quality care. Increases in awareness over time suggest that the general population is becoming better informed about the disproportionate number of racial and ethnic minority populations who are affected by a variety of serious diseases and conditions.

However, awareness of health disparities remains quite low overall.

Infant mortality continues to disproportionately affect some minority populations yet awareness of this disparity today is no different than it was in 1999. In addition, findings show that there is no widespread awareness of disparities in HIV/AIDS infection rates, nor is there adequate awareness that some racial and ethnic minority groups are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as Whites.

These findings serve as a wake-up call that a significant amount of work focused on informing the U.S. population of health conditions that disproportionately impact on racial and ethnic minority groups remains unfinished.

For more information:

Health Affairs Article on Awareness Of Racial And Ethnic Health Disparities Exit Disclaimer

Health Affairs Article on the HHS Disparities Reduction Plan Exit Disclaimer

Study Brief [PDF | 112KB]

2010 General Population [PDF | 257KB]

2009 General Population [PDF | 254KB]

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Content Last Modified: 2/2/2012 3:51:00 PM
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