Health is measured by morbidity (incidence of disease) and mortality (length of life) both of which are heavily influenced by behaviors, socioeconomic circumstance and environment in addition to the clinical care available. The variance of these factors creates disparities in both morbidity and mortality rates among various populations (Cohen, Chavez, & Chehimi, 2010). The National Institutes of Health (n.d.) defines health disparities as the “differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality and burden of diseases …” Disparities are typically influenced by cultural, ethic, racial factors as well as income, gender, ability/disability and literacy (Mikkelsen, 2002).
According to the report Eliminating Health Disparities: The Role of Primary Prevention, a focus on underlying factors creates an opportunity to prevent chronic but preventable conditions irrespective of disparity. Examples of this include reduced pediatric hospitalizations for asthma among children from low-income families, decreased prevalence in lung and bronchus cancer through multi-tiered anti-smoking campaigns and declines in lead poisoning with reduced lead levels in low-income homes (Mikkelsen, 2002). Essentially, prevention occurs at both the individual and community level as well as influences policy all of which impact morbidity and mortality.
Cohen, L., Chavez, V., & Chehimi, S. (2010). Prevention is Primary, Strategies for Community Well Being. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mikkelsen, L. C. (2002). Eliminating Health DIsparities: The Role of Primary Prevention. San Francisco: Prevention Institute.
National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Addressing Health Disparities: The NIH Program of Action. Retrieved January 14, 2002, from National Institutes of Health: http://healthdisparities.nih.gov/whatare.html