States To Address Socioeconomic Factors Involved In Health Disparities

Armen Hareyan's picture


Officials in several states -- including California, Minnesota,Pennsylvania and Virginia -- are "revamping health departments to focusless on scientific data and more on the role of 'social determinants,'"such as poverty and discrimination, which some believe are contributingto health disparities, the AP/Washington Times reports. According to the AP/Times,it has "long been suggested" that socioeconomic factors, such as a lackof transportation to physician appointments, can influence diseaserates in minorities; and officials in some states are dedicating moreresources to determining those factors.


Michael Royster, director of Virginia's Office of Minority Health and Public Health Policy,said higher rates of diseases among minorities are "related tosocioeconomic factors as well as the impact of perceived racism,"adding, "What we're looking at is not only health care, but the rolesthat health care, health behaviors and these broader socialdeterminants play in creating health inequities." For example, Roystersaid that to combat smoking as a cause for increasing cancer ratesamong minorities, officials could shift their focus to the prevalenceof tobacco advertisements in urban communities.

However, James Marks, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,said that state health agencies do not have the legislative authorityto address some factors, such as developing better housing or raisingwages for minority populations. Marks said, "It is often policies thatare outside (health officials') responsibility that need to bechanged," adding, "It requires mayors and governors ... they've got tobe the ones to call together the private sector and the public sector"(Walker, AP/Washington Times, 12/28/07).

Reprinted with permission can view the entire KaiserWeekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives,and sign up for email delivery at The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report ispublished for, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.