More data needed on healthcare disparities, CDC says

There has been "less than adequate progress" toward eliminating most healthcare disparities, according to a new federal report that calls for more data on the subject.

It has been known for a long time that income levels, race and ethnicity, gender and other attributes play in a role in determining how likely an individual is to be healthy, sick or die prematurely, but there is insufficient evidence regarding the effectiveness of certain interventions in reducing those disparities, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.

Some of the findings, based on 2007 data, include:

• low-income residents report five to 11 fewer healthy days per month than do high-income residents;

• men are four times as likely to commit suicide;

• the adolescent birth rate for Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks are three and 2.5 times, respectively, of those of whites; and

• people with higher incomes are more likely to binge drink.

The CDC cites major gaps in national data on healthcare disparities based on disability status and sexual orientation.

"Regularly published health reports that include information on health disparities typically do not include disability status as a dimension for comparison," the report said, calling gaps in sexual orientation data "even more severe."

"Standard reporting of sexual identity/orientation or sexual behavior on national health surveys is necessary if these health inequities are to be observed and attenuated among population groups," the report said.

The report calls on future national and state surveys to consistently and routinely measure sexual identity, orientation and behavior.