MCAT Content / Healthcare Disparities / Healthcare Disparities

Healthcare Disparities

Topic: Healthcare Disparities

Healthcare disparities are caused by inequality in access and quality of medical care received by a social class, gender, or racial group.

Not everyone in the U.S. has access to the same high-quality medical care. Socioeconomic status (SES) is a large determinant in access to high-quality medical care and education about medical issues. Those from a higher SES will have access to better hospitals and doctors as well as afford comprehensive medical coverage. Lower SES areas often have poor quality and inadequate housing with crowded living conditions that favor the spread of infectious diseases. Those from a lower SES often do not have access to high-quality healthcare providers nor the ability to afford medical treatment, prescriptions, or management for ongoing health conditions.

Those in a lower SES are more often employed in jobs that do not provide medical insurance or provide assistance should an illness affect their ability to work. Meanwhile, those in a higher SES typically have access to better health and nutrition education and access to more nutritious food. While those in a higher SES enjoy a nutritious diet that helps prevent disease, those in  lower SES often do not have access to high-quality food due to its high costs and lack education about health issues that affect them.

There are also healthcare disparities across racial and gender groups. Racial /ethnic minorities are more likely to be poor or low-income and racial and ethnic minorities have worse overall health than that of White Americans. Health disparities may stem from economic determinants, education, geography and neighborhood, environment, lower quality care, inadequate access to care, inability to navigate the system, provider ignorance or bias, and stress (Bahls, 2011). A lower SES  who also identifies as a minority racial group may struggle with access to healthcare, receive poor quality health care, and be uninsured or under-insured.

Gender also impacts access to health care. Gender discrimination in health care manifests itself primarily as the difference that men and women pay for their insurance premium. Women statistically pay far higher premiums than men, and more women than men are insured in the U.S. A gender care gap has been observed with preventive care: women are more likely to use preventive health services than men. Also, women are affected adversely both by unequal access to and institutionalized sexism in the healthcare industry.  In addition, the preference for male subjects in biomedical research has led to an underrepresentation of women in clinical trials.

 

Practice Questions 

 

MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Practice Exam 1 P/S Section Passage 9 Question 52


Key Points

• Race, social status. and gender are determining factors when looking at an individual’s access to health care.

• Socioeconomic status (SES) is a large determinant in access to high-quality medical care and education about medical issues. Those from a higher SES will have access to better hospitals and doctors as well as afford comprehensive medical coverage.

• Inequality in access to health care can have long-lasting negative impacts on an individual and affect their life quality and life expectancy.

• Racial /ethnic minorities are more likely to be poor or low-income and racial and ethnic minorities have worse overall health than that of White Americans.

• Gender discrimination in health care manifests itself primarily as the difference that men and women pay for their insurance premium.


Key Terms

Socioeconomic status: The social standing or class of an individual or group.



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