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Key Themes and Highlights From the National Healthcare Disparities Report
Twenty years ago, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health. That report documented many disparities in health and led to interventions to improve the health and health care of minorities.
This year, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is pleased to release the third National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR). This annual report provides a comprehensive national overview of disparities in health care among racial, ethnic, and socioeconomici groups in the general U.S. population and within priority populations and tracks the success of activities to reduce disparities. It is a companion report to the National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR), a comprehensive overview of quality of health care in America.
A major advantage of an annual report series is its ability to track changes over time. This year, data are presented that begin tracking trends across a broad array of measures of health care quality and access for many racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. In addition, the 2005 report begins to examine the issue of whether the Nation is making progress toward eliminating health care disparities.
The NHDR tracks disparities in both quality of health care and access to health care. Measures of health care quality mirror those in the NHQR and encompass four dimensions of quality—effectiveness, patient safety, timeliness, and patient centeredness. Measures of health care access are unique to this report and encompass two dimensions of access—facilitators and barriers to care and health care utilization.
This year's NHDR and NHQR focus on findings from a set of core report measures which represent the most important and scientifically credible measures in the full measure sets. Core report measures were selected from the full measure sets by the HHS Interagency Work Groups that support the reports based on their clinical importance, policy relevance, and data reliability.ii The 2005 reports also introduce a number of new composite measures as well as improved methods for summarizing quality and disparities.
In the 2005 NHDR, four key themes are highlighted for policymakers, clinicians, administrators, and community leaders who seek information to improve health care services for all Americans:
- Disparities still exist.
- Some disparities are diminishing.
- Opportunities for improvement remain.
- Information about disparities is improving.
i Socioeconomic differences include differences in education and income levels.
ii Go to Tables 2.1-2.3 in Chapter 2, Quality of Health Care, for data on core report measures of quality and Tables 3.1-3.2 in Chapter 3, Access to Health Care, for data on core report measures of access. Detailed tables for all measures as well as information on methods and measure specifications are available at www.qualitytools.ahrq.gov.