A Selected, Annotated List of Materials That Support the Development of Policies Designed to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

Article excerpt

Research documents the existence of racial and ethnic health disparities. As a result, policy makers are seeking to address these disparities. This list is a starting point for building or updating a collection that supports this policy development process. It is written for health policy librarians and researchers and includes annotated recommendations for books, periodicals, government publications, and Websites. Entries for print publications are primarily from 1998 to 2003.


Increasingly, racial and ethnie health disparities are acknowledged and documented. As a result, librarians are called upon to build or update collections that support the development of policies to address these disparities. A good place to begin is Haynes's 1997 publication, Ethnic Minority Health: A Selected, Annotated Bibliography, which covers 1970 to 1995 [1]. For items after 1995, however, librarians must scan the literature and bibliographies of various fields: ethnic minority health, medical anthropology, cultural anthropology, medical sociology, medicine, nursing, general health policy, public health, public policy, medical ethics, and political science to locate materials. In an effort to eliminate this duplication of effort, the authors present a selected, annotated list that is intended to serve as a starting point for updating a collection in this topic area.


According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), health disparities are defined as "differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States" [2]. The publication Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare states that many sources contribute to health disparities, including: "health systems, healthcare providers, patients and utilization managers" and that "bias, stereotyping, prejudice and clinical uncertainty on the part of health care providers" may also add to the problem [3].


In 1985, the United States Government, in the secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health, also known as the Heckler Report, documented, in a comprehensive manner, the health status of blacks and other minorities in the United States [4]. The task force report led to the establishment of the Office of Minority Health (OMH). This office was charged with advising the secretary of health and human services on medical and public health issues affecting minorities as defined by the Office of Management and Budget Directive 15, Race and Ethnic Standards for Statistics and Administrative Reporting, otherwise referred to as OMB 15 [5]. OMB 15, developed in 1977 and revised in 1997, identified Asians/Pacific Islanders, African Americans/Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indians/Alaska Natives as minorities [6]. With the goal of providing timely, accurate, and current information to the broader health community on issues relevant to minority health, the Office of Minority Health Resource Center (OMHRC) was created in 1987. The task force placed priority for information dissemination on those issues where existing data documented disparities: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, violence and homicide, substance abuse, infant mortality, and low birth weight. In recent years, these topics have expanded to include HIV/AIDS, mental health, and access to health care issues [7].

In 1991, the US Government released Healthy People 2000: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives, the nation's health improvement agenda for the last decade of the twentieth century. One of the three broad goals of Healthy People 2000 was to reduce health disparities, with a specific priority to "narrow the gap between total population and those groups with higher than average rates of death, disease and disability" [8]. Halfway through the decade, Healthy People 2000: Midcourse Review and 1995 Revisions examined new data and information that showed increased risk or disparity between the total population and people in age, sexual, racial, or ethnic minority groups that had become available since Healthy People 2000 was released in 1990 [9]. …