Health Disparities

Did you know that many diseases – including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS and certain types of cancer – strike and kill minority South Carolinians at higher rates than their white counterparts? For example, in our state, African American men are nearly twice as likely as white men to die of diabetes. This is a statistical fact.

And South Carolina is not alone. “Health disparities” occur at virtually all geographic levels across the nation. They affect many racial, ethnic, age and gender population groups: African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian/Pacific Islanders, among others.

How we choose to address disparities is a matter of great importance for all Americans, and a highly personal, life-or-death issue for an increasing number of South Carolinians.

Consider these examples of health disparities published in the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s report, entitled Healthy People Living in Healthy Communities 2009 Report

In South Carolina:

  • African American infants are more than twice as likely as white babies to die before their first birthday.
  • Although the number of female breast cancer cases is higher for whites, minority women are more likely to die of the disease.
  • African American women are more than twice as likely to die of cervical cancer.
  • Diabetes disproportionately impacts racial and ethnic minorities, with higher incidence, complication and death rates for minorities.
  • African Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to die from heart disease.
  • Seventy-five percent of newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases are African Americans. Eight out of ten women diagnosed with HIV are African American.

These and other examples of health disparities stem from a range of conditions. Among them are:

  • The rural character of the state’s population;
  • Access to and affordability of health care; and
  • The difficulty of communicating health-related information across geographic, income, racial, ethnic and “trust” divides.

To learn more:

The Medical University of South Carolina and Hands on Health South Carolina, in association with South Carolina Educational Television have produced one national and four in-state television programs on the subject of health disparities. VHS copies of these programs are available, at no cost, by contacting Richard Jablonski at the Medical University of South Carolina. His e-mail address is:

At the national level:

Center for Disease Control
The Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a rich source of information about health issues, including disparities. Use the search capability or search through Health topics A-Z to locate statistics, discussions, and other information regarding the prevalence of particular diseases.
About HRSA
(Health Resources and Services Administration)
This page from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Web site explains the mission of HRSA and its goal of 100 percent access to health care and 0 health disparities for all Americans. This page will link you to programs such as HIV/AIDS Services, Primary Health Care, Maternal and Child Health, and other special programs. Also, you can find information for health care professional training and education.
Addressing Health Disparities
(National Institutes of Health)
Addressing Health Disparities, the NIH Program of Action has useful information defining health disparities and giving examples. The report also discusses the goals of the Working Group on Health Disparities and specific action plans.
America's Health Rankings
(United Health Foundation)
This report is published in partnership with United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention. America’s Health Rankings provides state-by-state analysis of our country’s health and the factors that affect it.
Healthcare Communities
Healthcare Communities is a "national effort to improve health outcomes for all medically underserved people with chronic diseases." Collaborative partners include the Bureau of Primary Health Care, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and the National Association of Community Health Centers, Inc. This site has information for both patients and clinicians.
National Conference on Health Disparities
(Medical University of South Carolina)
Listen to videos of keynote addresses from national figures in the fight against health disparities. "Incorporating historical context, proven strategies and visionary thinking, this year’s conference offers guidance to those individuals, communities, health care providers, funding agencies, political leaders and public policy makers who seek the reduction and elimination of health disparities."
NIDCD Strategic Planning. Strategic Plan on Reducing Health Disparities
NIDCD Strategic Planning. Strategic Plan on Reducing Health Disparities is a report from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health in America, 2000
(National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research)
This site includes the first-ever report on the nation's oral health by the Surgeon General. The report is very long. For summary information, select the Executive Summary. This provides many statistics and much information about oral health in general, the relationship between oral health and general health, maintaining and promoting oral health, and disparities in oral health.
The 2005 National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR)
(Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ))
This "represents the first national comprehensive effort to measure differences in access and use of health care services by various populations. The report includes a broad set of performance measures that can serve as baseline views of differences in the use of services. The report presents data on the differences in the use of services, access to health care, and impressions of quality for seven clinical conditions, including cancer, diabetes, end-stage renal disease, heart disease, HIV and AIDS, mental health, and respiratory disease as well as data on maternal and child health, nursing home and home health care, and patient safety. It also examines differences in use of services by priority populations. Future reports will help the nation make continuous improvement by tracking differences through a consistent set of measures that will be updated as new measures and data become available. " The entire report may be downloaded as a .pdf file. Sections are downloadable as Word files.
The Office of Minority Health: Closing the Health Gap Campaigns
(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
The mission of the Office of Minority Health (OMH) is to improve and protect the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities. On this Website is information about funding and resources, statistics, and the health of minority populations.

In South Carolina:

Minority Health
(South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control)
Healthy Minorities Living in Healthy Communities is the site of South Carolina DHEC's Office of Minority Health. This site discusses programs that address health disparity and has links to health services in the state.
Bureau of Epidemiology
(South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC))
Get statistics from reports at the Bureau of Epidemiology. Select Data and Reports from the list at the left on this site. State and county-level reports and factsheets are available.
MUSC Initiatives to Eliminate Health Disparities in South Carolina
(Medical University of South Carolina)
Learn about the different programs the Medical University of South Carolina has implemented to address health disparities in the state of South Carolina. Click on County Health Profiles for health statistics in your area.
Healthy People Living in Healthy Communities 2009 Report
(South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control)
Chapter Two of the annual report, Healthy People Living in Healthy Communites 2009 addresses the health disparities in South Carolina.
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Written by: Richard C. Jablonski, B.S.
Created on: August 1, 2002
Last Modified: Monday December 19, 2016 11:39 AM