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Challenges to Eliminating Disparities in the US

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1 Challenges to Eliminating Disparities in the US
Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Conference Plenary I: Measuring and Eliminating Racism and Racial Disparities in MCH: 
The Need for New Paradigms Wednesday, December 10, 2008 Atlanta, GA Challenges to Eliminating Disparities in the US Vijaya K. Hogan, MPH, DrPH Clinical Associate Professor, Dept Maternal and Child Health Adjunct Assistant Professor, Dept OBGYN, UNC School of Medicine Director, Curriculum on Health Disparities Gillings Global School of Public Health University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

2 Outline What are disparities? What do disparities look like?
What causes disparities in health? What challenges do we face in eliminating them?

3 What are disparities?

4 Disparity (definition)
When one group of people gets sick and/or dies at a higher rate than other groups of people

5 NIH definition “differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific population subgroups in the US”. (NIH)

6 UNC-CH definition Inequities in disease and well-being that come from discrimination and unequal access to society’s benefits, such as quality education, good jobs, decent and affordable housing, safe neighborhoods and environments, nutritious foods, and adequate healthcare. These inequities result in disproportionately higher rates of death, disease, and disability and have adverse consequences on the physical, mental, spiritual, and social well-being of population groups who, historically and currently, do not experience equivalent social advantage. These groups include, for example, African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, people with disabilities, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer persons, and people with lower incomes. Workgroup on Engaged Institution for Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 2007

7 In the US: African Americans, Native Americans and subgroups of Latinos and Asians are more likely to get sick and die sooner than other groups of people.

8 What do disparities look like?

9 How Long People Are Expected To Live
Years White Black This graph shows disparity in life expectancy for black vs whites in USWhites have about a 10 year advnatage over blacks in the US 1900 1950 1970 1990 1960 1980 1996 SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics Systems,

10 Age-Adjusted Death Rates United States

11 How likely it is that a baby will die before age 1 in the US

12 How likely it is that a baby will be born too soon

13 Respondent-Assessed Health Status
Fair or Poor health (age-adjusted) Total Hispanic Non-Hispanic White Non-Hispanic black Percentage SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health Interview Survey,

14 Obesity (BMI<= 30.0) Female Whites Blacks Mexican Americans Percent
SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,

15 Percent of Philadelphia Childbearing Women with a Shelter Episode: By Race/Ethnicity, Education, and Parity Culhane, 2003

16 Now what do we do to get rid of them?
Disparities exist. Okay, we get that. Now what do we do to get rid of them?

17 All knowledge production in the area of health disparities should be aimed toward understanding why they exist and most importantly, what can we do to eliminate them.

18 What causes disparities?

19 The Circles of Influence on Health
-This figure, which is adapted from George Kaplan’s framework for a multilevel approach to epidemiology, draws heavily from a socio-ecologic understanding of health and health behavior. -Basically, social ecology posits that individual, and in turn, population health reflects the dynamic interplay between multiple levels of effect. Social ecology acknowledges the nesting of individuals within other, higher domains of influence including social relationships, organizations, neighborhoods, etc., and suggests that such domains affect health alone, and in interaction with, each other. These domains serve as the context for individual action, including health behaviors, and thus, can facilitate or impede individual and/or population ability to achieve health. -Extending this logic to the dilemma of health disparity and disparity in mammography outcomes specifically, forces a shift in the conceptualization of disparity as explained by primarily individual-level characteristics (or differences between groups of individuals) to being a consequence of determinants existing on all levels of the social ecological framework. From this perspective, understanding disparity in mammography outcomes necessitates identifying what these other, higher-level influences of screening behavior are and examining how and why such determinants condition disparate screening outcomes between groups of women. Kaplan, et al. (2000). A Multilevel Framework for Health in :Promoting Health. Washington, DC: National Academy Press

20 Disparity: Contributing factors
Racism Economic factors Neighborhood factors National, state or local Policies Behavior* * Not shown to be consistent contributor across all diseases Culture Social factors Environmental factors Stress and “Weathering” Health care (Kington and Nickens) in: America Becoming: Racial Trends and their Consequences, National Academy Press,2000

21 What challenges do we face in eliminating disparities?

22 Challenge # 1 Limitations in knowledge, research and clinical practice present barriers to eliminating disparities Example: prenatal care and preterm birth We have to actually have an effective prevention strategy or treatment for the disease to be able to make a difference in the disparity

23 Preterm Delivery Rates by Maternal Race/Ethnicity and Trimester of Initial Prenatal Care Singletons, United States, 2000

24 Challenge #2 Reducing disease is not the same as reducing the disparity Reducing disparity requires different actions above and beyond evidence-based risk/prevention interventions

25 Infant Mortality Rates Due to SIDS, United States by race, 1973-1998
AAP SIDS Campaign Evidence based strategies to create declines in disease do not necessarily create decline in disparity.

26 Challenge #3 We do not consistently distinguish between health care disparity and health outcome disparity Differences in medical care is only one of many contributors to overall health disparities

27 Is it this? But not if the distribution looks like this…which for most cases is probably a little closer to the truth. Currently I’d estimate the US spends 80% of resources on health care factors without really knowing if this is the largest contributor and with most thinkers believing social causes are larger.

28 Or this? But not if the distribution looks like this…which for most cases is probably a little closer to the truth. Currently I’d estimate the US spends 80% of resources on health care factors without really knowing if this is the largest contributor and with most thinkers believing social causes are larger.

29 Challenge #4 Causality is more complex than we acknowledge: intersecting risks

30 What makes African American populations different and at higher risk
What makes African American populations different and at higher risk? Complexity of causality: Overlapping of risk Prevalence Risk Factor Pop A Pop B A 20% 19% B 20% 18% C 20% 22% D 10% 10% Any 3 5% 45% Another analytic issue to make note of: these po’s look similar. Prevalence's look the same, therefore we would conclude no difference in populations. However,. If we look at the structure of how these risks are distrib relative to each other, we see an entirely different picture. Pop B has more women with a multitude of these individual risks.

31 Similar population risk prevalence; different configurations between populations: multiple interacting risks Subpopulation of B with multiple overlapping risks Population B Population A

32 Qualitative Evidence: Harlem BirthRight Project
Identified unique stressors for African American women (race X class X gender interactions) Documented existence of stress in all aspects of African American women’s lives Documented multiple concurrent stressors among African American women The stress of constantly dealing with multiple burdens “Sojourner Truth Syndrome” Racism exacerbates other risks, limits resources to “unstress” Mullings and Wali, 2001: Stress and Resilience-the Social Context of Pregnancy in Central Harlem

33 Economic and Social Hardships during pregnancy, by ethnicity MIHA, 2002-2003
African American Anglo < Poverty Hard to make ends meet Food insecurity Food insecurity and hunger No practical support No emotional support Separated or divorced Homeless Involuntary job loss Partner job loss Incarceration of partner Domestic Violence 1-5 hardships Source: Braverman P. (Center on Social Disparities in Health, UC-SF)) Presented at Jacobs Institute of Woman’s Health Conference, May 2005

34 Challenge # 5 Historical insults contribute to current disparities
Until the effects of past historical ills are undone, disparities will not be eliminated

35 American Slavery: “The bound labor of at least twelve generations of black people”. Slavery created wealth for slaveholders, wealth that was translated into extraordinary political power. The slave trade and the products created by slaves’ labor, particularly cotton, provided the basis for America’s wealth as a nation, underwriting the country’s industrial revolution and enabling it to project its power into the rest of the world. Slavery and the Making of America (PBS) We endured slavery for 246 years…


TIME SPAN CITIZENSHIP STATUS -YRS Experience accounts for this proportion of time in US STATUS HEALTH & HEALTH SYSTEM EXPERIENCE 246 years 64% Chattel slavery Disparate/inequitable treatment poor health status & outcomes. “Slave health deficit” & “Slave health sub-system” in effect 100 years 26% Virtually no citizenship rights Absent or inferior treatment and facilities. De jure segregation/ discrimination in South, de facto throughout most of health system. “Slave health deficit” uncorrected 41 years 10%  Most citizenship rights: USA struggles to transition from segregation & discrimination to integration of AA So. med school desegregation Imhotep Hospital Integration Conf , hospital desegregation in federal courts Disparate health status, outcomes, and services with apartheid, discrimination, institutional racism and bias in effect. TOTAL 387 years 100% HEALTH DISPARITIES/ INEQUITIES  AFRICAN AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP STATUS & HEALTH EXPERIENCE FROM 1619 TO 2006 Another important notion to keep in mind is the h/o AA’s in this country…250 years as slaves years under de jure segregation and discrimination. It has only been about 40 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, so only 10% of our existence in this country has been with most citizenship rights. Hence, African Americas have a 350 year handicap, we have a lot to “make-up” in order for AA’s to have an opportunity to eliminate these disparities. “Struggle” Source: Byrd, WM, Clayton, LA. An American Health Dilemma, Volume 1, A Medical History of African Americans and the Problem of Race: Beginnings to 1900, New York, NY: Routledge

38 Historical experiences of slavery, segregation, discrimination created economic and environmental disparities Median family income for Blacks and Hispanics <$28K, Whites and Asians $>45K (Census, 1990) Net wealth: Blacks $4,418, Whites $45,740 (Eller and Fraser 1995) Blacks more likely to live in low-income, segregated areas-”concentration of risk”; residential segregation implies restriction in options for mobility Blacks less likely to own homes 17% African Americans (in metro areas) live in extreme poverty; 1.4% Whites (in metro areas) live in extreme poverty Census, 1990

39 Challenge #6 Social factors are largest contributor to disparities; but often ignored. Medical factors get most focus and funding

40 “The causes of health disparities are multiple
“The causes of health disparities are multiple. They include poverty, level of education, inadequate access to medical care, lack of health insurance, societal discrimination and lack of complete knowledge of the causes, treatment and prevention of serious diseases affecting different populations. The causes {of health disparities} are not genetic, except in rare diseases like sickle cell…….Eliminating health disparities will require a cross-cutting effort, involving not only various components of the Federal government, but the private sector as well… Ruth Kirstein, Acting Director of NIH. 2001

41 “….racial and ethnic disparities in health status largely reflect differences in social, socioeconomic, behavioral risk factors and environmental living conditions. Health care is therefore necessary but insufficient in and of itself to redress racial and ethnic disparities in health status. A broad and intensive strategy to address social-economic inequality, concentrated poverty, inequitable and segregated housing and education…individual risk behaviors as well as disparate access to medical care is needed to seriously address racial and ethnic disparities in health status” Institute of Medicine—Unequal Treatment Report 2002

42 Potential Targets for intervention: Social Environment
The organization of the home we live in The connections we have to other people The neighborhood in which we live Organization of our workplace (or school) Our level of access to goods, services and resources of society The built environment that surrounds us Socioeconomic status The way others in society treat us; the amount of power and/or control others have over us The dominant political ethos/environment

43 Challenge #7 There does not yet exist an evidence base for how to eliminate disparities And there is limited support for the development of one

44 Challenge # 8 Our way of doing business in health precludes the development of an evidence base. We consistently and systematically eliminate any possibility of addressing social contributors (e.g. the largest contributors) “Feasibility” as a criteria for choosing intervention strategies limits progress toward eliminating disparities

45 Change the question How do we make it more feasible to address social contributors to health and health disparities? I’ll come back to this in a moment

46 Summary of Challenges We need more and better science to address today’s complex health issues, including disparities Having an evidence based intervention for eliminating the disease does not necessarily eliminate the disparity Health care disparity is only one of MANY contributors to health status disparities. Social factors, not just medical care factors contribute to adverse perinatal outcomes Causality is more complex than we acknowledge: risks overlapping risk is one characteristic of populations vulnerability Historical insults create current vulnerability; contribute to current disparities Asked to give this talk to HS. Not sure of its relevance to you because I am certain that everyone here knows these things already. I am preaching to the converted. What I hope it will do is two things (1) remind you of the role of HS in this arena of disparity elimination and (2) recommit you to working and advocating for the critical programmatic needs to make a difference in your communities

47 Summary, cont Social factors are the LARGEST contributors to health disparities. Medical factors and behaviors get most focus and funding Evidence base for eliminating disparities does not exist; no dedicated funding source to support its development “Feasibility” as criteria for choosing intervention strategies limits progress toward eliminating disparities

48 Conclusion Entails ALL of the following: Undoing historical inequities
Developing strategies for the elimination of disparities in perinatal health is complex: Entails ALL of the following: Undoing historical inequities Undoing current social inequities Addressing health system factors Including Minority representation in practice and research Addressing provider practices Inequities in care Non-action and accumulation of risk Clinical practice standards Timing of intervention Improving health education for women Improving the conditions under which woman can practice healthy behaviors Improving relevance and quality of research Developing an evidence base Adopting authentic Community partnered processes for planning research and interventions

49 Racism Weathering Stress Poverty Smoking Family Support
Disparities Weathering Bad Housing Unemployment Social policy Bad Neighborhoods Hopelessness Stress Poverty Limited Access to Care Adverse Environmental conditions Smoking And for AA families who continue to experience all of the sequela that accompany marginalized citizenship, we will continue to experience substantial health care disparities. Under- Education Family Support Poor Working Conditions Racism Lack of access to good Nutrition Adapted from A. R. James

50 Contact Vijaya K. Hogan, MPH, DrPH
Department of Maternal and Child Health University of N Carolina at Chapel Hill

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