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Dec 2012

Navigating the Storm That Is Contributing to Health Disparities

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Arch Ophthalmol. 2012;130(12):1601-1602. doi:10.1001/2013.jamaophthalmol.322

We are living during a period of a perfect storm, when health care costs are outpacing the growth in gross domestic product and when the burden of disease related to the aging process is increasing. It has been estimated that the number of baby boomers reaching the age of 65 years increases by 9000 every day.1 Add to this mix the increasing diversity of the United States and the continued challenges of meeting the needs of our growing, multicultural population. Adversely impacted by the economic recession in 2008, inequalities in income, education, and access to health care for vulnerable populations have been predicted to continue to deepen.2,3 These inequalities lead to disparities in health, clearly challenging our collective attainment of health equity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define the term health disparities “as differences in health outcomes and their determinants between segments of the population, as defined by social, demographic, environmental, and geographic attributes.”2 These health outcomes are largely dependent on the effectiveness of interventions and on the timing of diagnosis, as well as many other factors, such as adherence. Yes, this is a perfect storm in which the stakes are high; however, our capacity to navigate this storm and unravel this puzzle of health equity has never been greater.

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