The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published its first comprehensive report on health disparities and inequalities. The special supplement of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published on January 14, 2011 includes sections on social determinants (education and income), environmental hazards (inadequate and unhealthy housing, unhealthy air quality), health care access and preventive health services (health insurance coverage, influenza vaccination, colorectal cancer screening), mortality (infant deaths, motor vehicle-related deaths, suicides, drug-induced deaths, coronary heart disease and stroke deaths, homicides), morbidity (obesity, preterm births, potentially preventable hospitalizations, asthma, HIV infection, diabetes, hypertension), and behavioral risk factors (binge drinking, adolescent pregnancy and childbirth, cigarette smoking).
An introduction defines health disparities as “differences in health outcomes and their determinants between segments of the population, as defined by social, demographic, environmental, and geographic attributes”. The report also describes some of the gaps in data regarding disparities, particularly for individuals with disabilities and based on sexual orientation. In the report’s foreword, CDC Director Thomas Frieden pledges additional reports on health disparities and inequalities from the CDC. While a similar National Healthcare Disparities Report has been published annually by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, this CDC report is significant for its broad view and measurement of the social determinants of health.