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Health Disparities

Group of six young people sitting together

Health disparity is a type of difference in health that is closely linked with social or economic disadvantage. Health disparities negatively affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social or economic obstacles to health. These obstacles stem from characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion, such as race or ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, mental health, sexual orientation, or geographic location. Other characteristics include cognitive, sensory, or physical disability. Learn more about efforts being made to address STD health disparities.

Additional data on STD rates by age, gender, and geographic location are found in CDC's 2011 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance Report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is partnering with multiple organizations, agencies, and community leaders to achieve health equity. Health equity occurs when all people have "the opportunity to 'attain their full health potential' and no one is 'disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of their social position or other socially determined circumstance.'"

In the fall of 2011, CDC awarded $5.4 million for community approaches to STD prevention. The CDC's Community Approaches to Reducing Sexually Transmitted Diseases (CARS) initiative is an opportunity to use community engagement methods and partnerships to build local STD prevention and control capacity. The purpose of the CARS project is to support the planning, implementation, and evaluation of innovative, interdisciplinary interventions to: reduce STD disparities; promote sexual health; and advance community wellness. To advance community wellness, the CARS project looked to partner with diverse organizations, agencies, and community leaders; funds were awarded to: University of Texas Health Science Center (San Antonio); Virginia State Department of Health (Richmond City Health District); Urban Affairs Coalition/Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program (Philadelphia); and Health Research Association, Inc. (Los Angeles).

Communicating About Social Determinants of Health and Disparities
Communicating about social determinants of health and disparities to lay audiences can be complicated and new research suggests the need to refocus information for the press and general audiences away from disparities messaging and towards messaging that draws connections between shared life conditions of all racial/ethnic groups. For more information and evidence-based recommendations refer to the following reports and publications and CDC's Web site on Social Determinants of Health:

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