University of Wisconsin–Madison

State Disparity Trends

Can States Simultaneously Improve Health Outcomes and Reduce Health Outcome Disparities?

Reducing racial health disparities is often stated as a population health goal, but specific targets for such improvement are seldom set. It is often assumed that improving overall health outcomes will be linked to disparity reduction, but this is not necessarily the case.

We compared the annual change from 1999 through 2013 in combined- race (black and white) mortality with the annual change in absolute and relative racial mortality disparities for US states.

For mortality in US states over a recent period, improvement in the population mean and disparity reduction do not usually occur together. The disparity reduction rates observed may provide realistic guidance for public and private policy makers in setting goals for reducing population health disparity and creating investment priorities. As a starting point for discussion, the observed national median annual percentage improvement of 1.1 per year combined, 3.6% per year absolute gap reduction, and 1.2% per year relative gap reduction would be modest and reasonable goals.

Read more in this Preventing Chronic Disease article