Skip to content

Health Disparities

Share this page
  • Print this page

Health Disparities

Although Minnesota has long been one of the healthiest states in the country, some Minnesotans tend to experience much worse health in several areas.  Overall, Populations of Color and American Indians experience shorter life spans, higher rates of infant mortality, higher incidence of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other diseases, and poorer general health.  Prevention can improve health in these communities and help manage health care costs.  Populations of Color and American Indians have raised awareness of these issues and the State has been working to address these disparities through the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health and their community grant program. 

Health reform helps further Minnesota’s work to eliminate health disparities by expanding access to affordable health care, strengthening the health care workforce, investing in prevention, and improving data to more accurately document health disparities.

What is a health disparity?

Health disparities are defined as the difference in the burden of diseases and health status that exist among specific population groups in the U. S.  They are closely linked with social, economic and environmental conditions.  Health disparities may affect certain populations based on gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, geography, sexual orientation, disability or special health care needs.  Health disparities occur among groups that have persistently experienced historical trauma, and discrimination.  These groups experience worse health or greater health risks than other populations.

What has Minnesota been doing to address these disparities?

The Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative grant program was created by the 2001 Minnesota Legislature in Minnesota Statute 145.928.  This competitive grant program The is administered by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Minority and Multicultural Health and provides funds to close the gap in the health status of African Americans/Africans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos in Minnesota as compared to Whites in the following priority health areas:

• Breast and cervical cancer screening

• Diabetes

• Heart disease and stroke

• HIV/AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases

• Immunizations for adults and children

• Infant mortality

• Teen pregnancy prevention

• Unintentional injury and violence

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) also addresses community members’ concerns regarding disparities in access to and outcomes of its programs and services.  The Community/DHS Disparities Reduction Advisory Committee is a collaborative effort that meets monthly to provide DHS recommendations to reduce disparities in access and outcomes for cultural and ethnic communities supported by the agency. 

Three priorities have been identified and guide the work of the agency in collaboration with community members:

1.  Increase access to health services;

2.  Define culturally competent health care organization; and

3.  Ensure that requests for proposals are accessible to smaller, culturally-specific organizations.

How does health reform continue Minnesota’s work to reduce health disparities?

Health reform improves access to affordable health care and supports prevention.  Health reform also:

• sets standards for collecting data,
• coordinates the analysis of data on health disparities, and
• ensures that health programs collect data (including data on race, ethnicity, primary language, and health literacy) on applicants and beneficiaries, with proper consent.

Why are these changes needed?

Any effort to reduce health disparities must first identify where gaps exist.  In our current health care system, data collection is fragmented; information on race, ethnicity, or primary language is not always collected; and data is often not readily available to policy makers and the public.

What will health reform do in the areas of language access and cultural competence?

Health reform would make sure that qualified health plans in an Exchange provide culturally and linguistically appropriate communication and health services.  There will also be an emphasis on training health professionals to improve their cultural competence.