What factors determine health disparities between races?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Health disparities exist among the different races in the United States. It’s fair to ask if some of this might be written down to genetic factors that might make some race groups more likely to gain weight or get diabetes. The problem is, studies have shown that these differences track closely with levels of poverty, income, access to insurance, unemployment and education level. Race in this country is closely tied to things like your ability to find a job, likely income, and probability of growing up and later living in poverty. Our society and the way we practice medicine is often set up to disadvantage minorities from the outset.

Black Americans, for example, are more likely to live in lower income neighborhoods in worse housing with higher amounts of pollution than white Americans. They’re less likely to have access to supermarkets that sell fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. And they’re less likely to be able to afford a gym or have access to safe places to exercise. Some of the risk may be genetic, but the health of minorities in America is being disproportionately affected by damaging health circumstances often imposed by society.

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Some factors that determine health disparities between races include socioeconomic status, geographical location, education, cultural beliefs and norms, disease prevalence, healthcare discrimination (including access to affordable healthcare and quality of care) and access to healthy lifestyle options (i.e., fresh food, fitness facilities, recreational sports programs).


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.