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November 2018

Identifying Disparities in Dermatology: The Importance of Measuring Differences That Matter

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics, Perelman School Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(11):1251-1253. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.2938

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.

Martin Luther King, Jr

Health disparities are costly to our society. Between 2003 and 2006, an estimated 30.6% of direct medical expenditures for racial and ethnic minority individuals were attributable to excess costs arising from health inequities.1 If health disparities for minority individuals had been eliminated during this period, approximately $230 billion in direct medical care expenditures and more than $1 trillion in indirect costs would have been saved.1 With the United States being forecasted to become a majority-minority nation by 2045,2 in the absence of any efforts to stem health inequities, the cost of health disparities is only expected to grow. Furthermore, racial/ethnic health disparities only make up one part of the larger disparities story, which includes age, gender, socioeconomic, and sexual orientation or gender identity disparities, among many others. Because health care services collectively make up one of several determinants of an individual’s overall health, disparities in health care provided or received are often closely tied to and may cause disparities in health outcomes. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the elimination of health and health care disparities is a priority for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 initiative.

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