Health disparities are differences in the quality of health or health care across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. (HHS, Healthy People 2010) Disparities arise "in large part because of the conditions in which people are born, grow, live work and age." (M. Marmot, 2008) The Division is working on improving the quality of healthcare delivery and ensuring better health outcomes for the Commonwealth's most vulnerable residents.

What the Division is Doing

The Heart Disease Prevention and Control Program and the Diabetes Prevention and Control  participate in the Massachusetts Health Disparities Collaborative, a national effort directed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Another Division effort focusing on health disparities is occurring through the and the Women's Health Network. Clients receiving their healthcare at a Men's Health Partnership or Women's Health Network participating health care center are provided an individualized care plan which includes care coordination, patient navigation, medical interpretation, and risk reduction education. These additional services are making it easier for clients to follow through with their health care provider's recommendations, adopt healthier lifestyles, and therefore attain a better health outcome.

The Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Program uses a community education approach to motivate black, non-Hispanic men 40 and over to speak with a health care provider about their prostate cancer risk and screening options available to them. This program also supports several quality improvement projects in clinical settings across the state. These projects will increase the rates for colorectal cancer screening in at risk populations.

The Disability Access Project led by the Office on Health and Disability has created guides for Accessible Print Materials and Accessible Meetings and Events, which have now become policy for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and a model for all Massachusetts organizations. People with disabilities should no longer encounter barriers for participation in Department activities. But, perhaps more importantly, the Office has created a checklist that will help all facilities providing healthcare determine the accessibility of their building and services.

This information is provided by the Division of Prevention and Wellness within the Department of Public Health.