Health Disparities

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What are "health disparities"?

The term "health disparities" refers to population-specific differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes, quality of health care and access to health care services that exist across racial and ethnic groups.

Many factors contribute to racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic health disparities, including inadequate access to care, poor quality of care, community features (such as poverty and violence) and personal behaviors. These factors are often associated with underserved racial and ethnic minority groups, individuals who have experienced economic obstacles, those with disabilities and individuals living within medically underserved communities. Consequently, individuals living in both urban and rural areas may experience health disparities. (

What health issues are included?

"Health disparity" is a broad term used to address a wide spectrum of health-related concerns not exclusive to illnesses and disease. Some of these various issues include higher rates of:

  • Drug abuse/addiction
  • Tobacco/Alcohol use
  • Adolescent pregnancy and childbirth
  • Infant mortality
  • Suicide
  • Homicide
  • Death by motor vehicle accident


  • Heart disease/Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Mental health illness
  • Tuberculosis
  • Viral Hepatitis
  • STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections)

(CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report — United States, 2011)

HIV/AIDS Health Disparities in Western New York

In the Erie County/Western New York region, HIV/AIDS is a crisis that disproportionately and greatly affects specific minority populations. These include African Americans, Hispanics, and LGBT (especially MSM- men who have sex with men) communities. Similar to the national levels, injection drug use, STDs, poverty, and cultural beliefs are some of the HIV prevention challenges these groups face.

  • WNY represents .27% of the HIV epidemic within the US (AIDS Network of WNY: Data Collection Report 2009)
  • Although Hispanics and African Americans make up approximately 13% of the population in WNY, they account for over 55% of people living with HIV/AIDS   (2010-2013 Community Health Assessment, Erie County NY)
  • In 2009, of the 2827 people living with HIV/AIDS in WNY, 42% were African American, 15% were Hispanic, 40% were MSM*,
    and 18% were IDU* (Injection Drug Users) *It is important to note that there may be some overlapping between MSM, IDU, and the two separate racial/ethnic groups  (AIDS Network of WNY: Data Collection Report 2009)

HIV/AIDS Health Disparities in the U.S.

Despite prevention efforts, HIV/AIDS is one of the most common health concerns that affect certain groups of people far more drastically than others. Across the US, disparities are most prevalent among the African American and Hispanic populations. Injection drug use, STDs, poverty, and cultural beliefs are some of the HIV prevention challenges facing these communities.

African Americans

  • African Americans accounted for 46% of all HIV infections cases diagnosed in 2010, but only make up 13% of the U.S. population
  • 69% of the total number of reported cases of gonorrhea in 2010
  • African American men are 9.5 times more likely to die of AIDS than non-Hispanic White men
  • African American women are almost 20 times more likely to die from HIV/AIDS, as compared to non-Hispanic White women
  • AIDS is now the #1 leading cause of death for African American women ages 25-34, and the second leading cause of death for African American men ages 35-44


( / (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HIV/AIDS fact sheets)

  • Hispanics accounted for 20% of AIDS cases in 2010, despite making up only 16% of the U.S. population
  • Hispanics are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS than Whites
  • Hispanic males were also 2.3 times more likely to die of AIDS than their non-Hispanic White counterparts, and Hispanic women were 3.4 times more likely to die from AIDS