HWTF's Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative is addressing disparities related to cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes among African-Americans, Latinos and American Indians disparately affected by the prevalence and morbidity related to these diseases. The long-term goal of this effort is to ensure equal health quality for the entire population.
For the period 1997-2001, African-Americans were 1.2 times more likely and Native Americans were 1.3 times more likely to die of heart disease in North Carolina than whites. Similar ratios currently exist for deaths due to diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and stroke. For diabetes deaths during this period, the ratios of African-Americans and Native Americans were 2.2 and 2.0 times as likely to die as whites. Such differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality and burden of disease and other adverse health conditions among specific population groups are known as “health disparities.”
While some health professionals believe that most disparities can be attributed to socioeconomic status and biological or genetic differences, most have accepted the fact that race and ethnicity, as well as socioeconomic factors, have demonstrable effects on health status. In many cases, a variety of factors simultaneously impact the health status of some racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups that result in persistent disparities in health status. These may include cultural, institutional, political and structural conditions faced by certain population groups.
In 2004, HWTF Commissioners voted to address this growing problem by allocating $12.5 million over three years to offer community grants to eliminate health disparities. The Commission seeks to reduce disparities for children / youth and adults related to obesity and chronic diseases, including but not limited to: cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.