Health Disparities (HD) are preventable differences in the burden of disease by race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, geographic location (urban vs. rural), income or education. These inequitable differences represent issues of social injustices, making HD an issue of ultimate importance. While HD are a social justice issue, they are also an issue of economic importance that impacts all Americans, regardless of race/ethnicity. In an effort to mitigate the negative health, social, and economic outcomes associated with HD, El Centro strives to eliminate these disparities through research, training, and working within communities in order to produce effective, culturally-informed and sustainable improvements to health.
El Centro Health Foci.
Research suggests that minorities bear a disproportionate burden of disease, injury, death, and disability when compared with Whites and are at increased risk of multiple health conditions, including El Centro’s health foci: HIV/AIDS and STI, substance abuse, IPV, and associated physical and mental health conditions. These disparities in health contribute to decreased quality of life and economic opportunities as highlighted below.
HIV / AIDS and other STIs.
In the United States, HIV is spread mainly through anal or vaginal sex or by sharing drug-use equipment with an infected person. Although these risk factors are the same for everyone, some racial/ethnic groups are more affected than others, given their percentage of the population. This is because some population groups have higher rates of HIV in their communities, thus raising the risk of new infections with each sexual or drug use encounter.
Additionally, a range of social, economic, and demographic factors—such as stigma, discrimination, income, education, and geographic region—affect their risk for HIV. (CDC, 2014)
Intimate Partner Violence
IPV is linked to both immediate and long-term health, social, and economic consequences, such as physical injury and illness, psychological symptoms, economic costs, and death (CDC, 2011b). The health consequences associated with IPV are multiple and extreme. The burden of IPV on racial and ethnic minorities is not well documented. However, research has suggested that Hispanics and Blacks are disproportionately affected by IPV.
Drug and alcohol abuse is a significant public health problem that is widespread among Americans of all ages and ethnicities. Substance abuse is linked with many negative health-related consequences such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases and stroke, fatal and nonfatal overdose, hepatitis, complications in pregnancy, mental illness, and HIV infection. Although rates of substance abuse are not different overall for Hispanics, Blacks and Whites (NIDA, 2003; Sharma, 2008) the consequences and stigma associated with substance abuse are greater for members of minority groups (CDC, 2007; Gonzalez-Guarda, Ortega, Vasquez & De Santis, 2010; Szapocznik & Prado, 2007).
The Co-occurrence of HIV / AIDS and other STIs, Substance Abuse, IPV, and Mental Health Conditions.
The co-occurrence of multiple, intertwined health conditions among HD populations are found to partially explain the disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality that these populations bear.