Press Release

Embargoed Until Contact

August 15, 2013

Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
(301) 841-9962


Health Gaps


Bethesda, MD -- A new Health Policy Brief from Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines research on health disparities in the United States. In this country, life expectancy and other health status measures can vary dramatically depending on a person's race, gender, level of completed education, and zip code. While some disparities may not be preventable, many can be alleviated, as this brief explains.


Topics covered in this brief include:


  • What's the background? The brief details existing research that confirms which regions of the country have healthier residents and why. For example, a March 2013 Health Affairs study by David Kindig and Erika Cheng of the University of Wisconsin finds that life expectancy varied among US counties by as much as ten years or more. In addition to differences in geography, the brief discusses disparities of race, gender, and health status that may be linked to ethnicity, language, education, social class, income, and sexual orientation.

  • What are the policy implications? The brief discusses what policies can be put in place to ameliorate preventable disparities; these fall into three categories. The first group consists of modifiable behaviors and how people successfully manage any chronic disease. The second group of factors revolves around the social, cultural, and physical environments where people live and work. These categories can be shaped by the actions of both policy makers and individuals. The third major category is health care itself, with evidence showing a connection between access to health care and good health--a fundamental part of the Affordable Care Act's focus on expanding health coverage to more Americans, especially access to primary care.

  • What's next? The brief describes the direction of research about health gaps and how some of the findings have been translated into effective policy solutions. These include public health efforts such as controlling communicative diseases through better living conditions, changing modifiable behaviors, and evaluating how health is shaped by the kind and quality of health care received. The results of these efforts may help close health gaps and advance health equity in the United States.
About Health Affairs

Health Affairs is the leading journal at the intersection of health, health care, and policy. Published by Project HOPE, the peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published periodically and health policy briefs published twice monthly at Read daily perspectives on Health Affairs Blog. Download weekly Narrative Matters podcasts on iTunes.