36395 The HP2020 Health Disparities Tool: Identifying and Describing Health Disparities in Healthy People 2020 Objectives through Web-Based Data Visualization

Sarah Pomerantz, MPH, CommunicateHealth, Inc., Rockville, MD and Deborah Hoyer, MPH, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, MD

Background:  Many dimensions of disparity exist in the United States, particularly in health. If a health outcome is seen at a greater or lesser extent between populations, there is disparity. Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) defines a health disparity as a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater obstacles to health based on their demographics or socioeconomic status. Access to current, quality data will help the Nation identify areas for improvement of population health, identify health disparities, and prioritize and customize interventions.

Program background:  HP2020 assesses health disparities in the U.S. population by tracking rates of illness, death, chronic conditions, behaviors, and other types of outcomes in relation to various demographic and socioeconomic factors. The initiative strives to eliminate disparities, achieve health equity, and improve the health of all groups. To support such efforts, the HHS Office of Minority Health, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics collaborated on the development of a new web-based tool that summarizes health disparities for measureable, population-based HP2020 objectives. The tool allows users to easily navigate and visualize health disparities data and clearly depicts the changes in those disparities over time.

Evaluation Methods and Results:  The health disparities tool features over 100 objectives using National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data. The NHIS is the principal source of information on the health of the civilian, non-institutionalized population of the United States. Using the health disparities tool, researchers, policy makers, and Healthy People users can review snapshots of health disparities by year, based on the following determinants:

  • Sex
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Educational attainment
  • Family income
The tool provides detailed comparisons by population groups for each of the latest data points with available data, as well as the range of estimates between each group. It includes a bar chart and data table that display all available rates, rate ratios, standard errors, and confidence intervals, as well as technical information to interpret the data for selected HP2020 objectives.

Conclusions:  The HP2020 health disparities tool serves as an important resource for policy and research related to health disparities. It identifies critical demographics in need of health intervention and increases federal, state, and local capacity to generate appropriate and targeted responses to health inequity. 

Implications for research and/or practice:  The health disparities tool has important implications for the advancement of legislative action that is informed by a health-in-all-policies approach and backed by supporting data. The Healthy People team will continue to expand the health disparities tool to better serve the needs of users and further increase the applicability of this data. In the future, the tool will include all data systems that provide data for measurable, population-based objectives in Healthy People 2020.