The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has issued the 2011 National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR).  As in 2010, AHRQ has integrated findings from the 2011 National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) and 2011 NHDR to produce a single summary chapter. This is intended to reinforce the need to consider simultaneously the quality of health care and disparities across populations when assessing our health care system. The National Healthcare Reports seek to address three questions critical to guiding Americans toward the optimal health care they need and deserve:

  • What is the status of health care quality and disparities in the United States?
  • How have health care quality and disparities changed over time?
  • Where is the need to improve health care quality and reduce disparities greatest?

A key function of the National Healthcare Reports is to summarize the state of health care quality, access, and disparities for the Nation. This undertaking is difficult, as no single national health care database collects a comprehensive set of data elements that can produce national and State estimates for all population subgroups each year. Rather, data come from more than three dozen databases that provide estimates for different population subgroups and data years. While most data are gathered annually, some data are not collected regularly or are old. Despite the data limitations, the National Healthcare Reports’ analyses indicate that health care quality in America is suboptimal. The gap between best possible care and that which is routinely delivered remains substantial across the Nation.  And disparities in quality of care are common:

o Adults age 65 and over received worse care than adults ages 18-44 for 39% of quality measures.

o Blacks received worse care than Whites for 41% of quality measures.

o Asians, and American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) received worse care than Whites for about 30% of quality measures.

o Hispanics received worse care than non-Hispanic Whites for 39% of measures.

o Poor people received worse care than high-income people for 47% of measures.

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