Health Care Disparities and Diabetes Care: Practical Considerations for Primary Care Providers

Ever since the Institute of Medicine issued its 2002 report titled, “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care,” there has been a steady increase in the awareness, measurement, and documentation of disparate health care trends across America. Health care disparities have been defined as, “[differences] in the overall rate of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity, mortality, or survival rates in [a given subpopulation] as compared to the health status of the general population.” Health care disparities can be broadly classified as either differences in the quality of care received or in access to care. In general, these disparities encompass a broad spectrum of disease processes and result from a complex interplay of multiple factors.

Despite some recent successes in narrowing disparate gaps in care among select populations, the reduction or elimination of most health disparities has remained elusive to providers, researchers, and policy-makers. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has recognized several priority groups as targets for addressing disparities. These include racial and ethnic minorities, women, children, low-income groups, the elderly, residents of rural areas, and individuals with disabilities.

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