Causes of Health Disparities

Health disparities are the result of systemic conflict, as well as lack of resources and distribution of these resources to accommodate the population that is in need (10 facts on health inequities and their causes, 2017). The government controls the distribution of healthcare services and resources to different states and cities, and some are offered more than others due to their socioeconomic status. When the population is mostly under the poverty level, they will most likely have government issued medical care (Garfinkel & et al, 1987). Government issued care is far and few due to so many individuals needing to see physicians. Some patients will not receive all the care they require, or they will not even be seen at all. Ethnic groups are the heaviest in these poverty-stricken areas, and stereotypes are easily created about them which can stop the physician from doing their job fairly and unbiased on the patient’s behalf. They can feel like they are not secure and decide to not seek any more medical attention (10 facts on health inequities and their causes, 2017).


Poverty is a factor that contributes to health disparities tremendously. As of 2018, about 41 million people in the U.S. population are currently living in poverty. Those who are in poverty suffer from detrimental health effects because of their socioeconomic status and environmental conditions. This leads to an increase in chronic diseases, premature mortality, communicable diseases, and health risk behaviors. Unfortunately, people in poverty are deprived of psychological, social and political power which also leads to worsening health conditions. (Khubchandani, Price & Webb, 2018).

Previous data has shown that approximately 30 communities in the United States, that are predominantly minority communities, continue to have lower socioeconomic status, greater barriers to health-care access, and overall a greater risk and burden of disease compared to the general population (Center for Disease Control and Prevention Health Disparities and Inequalities Report, 2013).

Environmental Threats

Environmental threats on health disparities can range in many ways. Things such as where you work, built environment, food deserts, and access to health care facilities can influence your health.

Inadequate or Unequal Access To Health Care

The lack of healthcare, or access to quality care, is common due to other systemic ideologies, as well as attitudes towards certain groups of individuals. Many groups that are socioeconomically disadvantaged are usually individuals who are of color (Weech‐Maldonado & et al, 2015), and these individuals are the ones who live in poor neighborhoods. In many urban, ethnic neighborhoods, there are more food deserts than fresh food markets to support the dietary guidelines for maintaining optimal health (Pike, & et al, 2017). This increases the likelihood of chronic diseases, which, in these environments, are not equipped to handle so many incidences of chronic disease.

In densely populated areas, lack of healthcare access is very common because there are more people than healthcare providers, as well as facilities to accommodate these patients with chronic illness (Stine & et al, 2013). Not only is there a overflow of patients in these facilities, there is not exactly a standard of quality care due to the location being under represented and maintained neighborhoods (Williams & et al, 2000). They do not receive the same health care providers or services, and many of the hospitals/clinics/care centers are university owned (Stine & et al, 2013), meaning there are inexperienced upcoming doctors, nurses, physician assistants, etc. who are learning on the job. Therefore, their focus is to do well rather than bedside manner. With this lack of consideration, the patients do not feel welcomed, so they either do not come back willingly or when they arrive it is through the ER, and the care is still poor. Overall, there is no improvement of their conditions. Note that they are going to secondary care services rather than primary care like primary care doctors since many of those primary care providers are working for non-profit and government healthcare services (Stine & et al, 2013).

Individual and Behavioral Factors

Behavior is one of five determinants of health (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). As a result of this, behavioral factors tend to be an important indicator of health disparities (Higgins, 2014). Specific behaviors are riskier than others and put individuals at a higher risk of developing illness or disease. Some examples of individual behaviors are alcohol and drug use, engaging in unprotected sex, or smoking cigarettes (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Engaging in behaviors like these increases the likelihood of being unhealthy.

There are many factors that influence an individual’s behavior, including social and environmental factors (Orgera & Artiga, 2018). Individuals of minority and low socioeconomic status have different external factors influencing their behavior compared to white people and those with higher socioeconomic status (Orgera & Artiga, 2018). Since an individual’s behavior is influenced by their environment and financial status, many people who experience health disparities often make poor behavioral choices, only furthering the disparities present. For example, if a black or Hispanic person doesn’t have health insurance, they are less likely to seek medical care or go without it when they need it. As a result, these individuals are more likely to have negative health outcomes compared to their counterparts that do seek medical attention. This creates a disparity in access to care and furthers health outcome disparities. The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction when it comes to addressing behavioral factors that worsen disparities. The ACA gave Americans health care coverage, and increased funding to lessen the burden of disparities (Orgera & Artiga, 2018). It is important to continue passing legislation like the ACA to empower people to be able to make healthy behavioral choices, like being able to choose to go to the doctor.