Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved
Volume 23, Number 2, May 2012 Supplement
pp. 7-19 | 10.1353/hpu.2012.0084
U.S. health disparities are real, pervasive, and persistent, despite dramatic improvements in civil rights and economic opportunity for racial and ethnic minority and lower socioeconomic groups in the United States. Change is possible, however. Disparities vary widely from one community to another, suggesting that they are not inevitable. Some communities even show paradoxically good outcomes and relative health equity despite significant social inequities. A few communities have even improved from high disparities to more equitable and optimal health outcomes. These positive-deviance communities show that disparities can be overcome and that health equity is achievable. Research must shift from defining the problem (including causes and risk factors) to testing effective interventions, informed by the natural experiments of what has worked in communities that are already moving toward health equity. At the local level, we need multi-dimensional interventions designed in partnership with communities and continuously improved by rapid-cycle surveillance feedback loops of community-level disparities metrics. Similarly coordinated strategies are needed at state and national levels to take success to scale. We propose ten specific steps to follow on a health equity path toward optimal and equitable health outcomes for all Americans.