2012 National Healthcare Disparities Report

Highlights From the 2012 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports

The U.S. health care system is designed to improve the physical and mental well-being of all Americans by preventing, diagnosing, and treating illness and by supporting optimal function. Across the lifespan, health care helps people stay healthy, recover from illness, live with chronic disease or disability, and cope with death and dying. Quality health care delivers these services in ways that are safe, timely, patient centered, efficient, and equitable.

Unfortunately, Americans too often do not receive care they need, or they receive care that causes harm. Care can be delivered too late or without full consideration of a patient’s preferences and values. Many times, our system of health care distributes services inefficiently and unevenly across populations. Some Americans receive worse care than others. These disparities may occur for a variety of reasons, including differences in access to care, social determinants, provider biases, poor provider-patient communication, and poor health literacy.

Each year since 2003, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has reported on progress and opportunities for improving health care quality and reducing health care disparities. As mandated by the U.S. Congress, the National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) focuses on “national trends in the quality of health care provided to the American people” (42 U.S.C. 299b-2(b)(2)). The National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR) focuses on “prevailing disparities in health care delivery as it relates to racial factors and socioeconomic factors in priority populations” (42 U.S.C. 299a-1(a)(6)).

As in previous years, we have integrated findings from the 2012 NHQR and NHDR to produce a single summary chapter. This is intended to reinforce the need to consider concurrently the quality of health care and disparities across populations when assessing our health care system. The National Healthcare Reports Highlights seeks to address three questions critical to guiding Americans toward the optimal health care they need and deserve:

● What is the status of health care quality and disparities in the United States?

● How have health care quality and disparities changed over time? 

● Where is the greatest need to improve health care quality and reduce disparities?

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