One of the American Heart Association’s top priorities is ensuring that all Americans have access to healthcare and lifesaving information that can prevent heart disease and stroke. That’s why we often talk about eliminating health disparities and creating health equity.
What do these terms mean?
Health disparities are differences in health that are closely linked with social or economic disadvantage. And health equity is the opposite of this, when all Americans have the same opportunity to improve their health and avoid deadly diseases.
Health disparities can be connected to race, ethnicity, gender or several other factors and can stem from disadvantages such as poverty, inadequate health care access and educational inequalities.
The most disadvantaged in society often have the greatest need for preventive screenings and other health programs but have the least access to them.
Serving Populations in Need
The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association aim to serve diverse populations and to engage members of these groups in grassroots advocacy campaigns.
Diversity simply refers to the ways people differ and includes a sizeable number of general categories: age, race, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, physical qualities education, parental status, income, work background, geographical location, marital status, military experience and religious beliefs.
Understanding the cultural, language, social and economic nuances of people and their diverse communities is crucial for our organization to create multicultural initiatives that help ethnic communities get healthier and reduce their chances of heart disease and stroke.
The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association are working to increase awareness of health disparities in a number of ways.
The Power To End Stroke initiative, which celebrates African-Americans’ culture, energy, creativity and lifestyles, tries to make an impact on the high incidence of stroke within the community.
The Go Red for Women movement highlights women’s fight against heart disease, the leading killer of American women. And Go Red Por Tu Corazón reaches Hispanics and Latinas through a bilingual outreach.
The AHA also supports creating and sustaining existing state offices of minority health or multicultural health and offices of health equity.
Advocating for Equity
The organization urges state funding for WISEWOMAN and similar programs that provide low-income, underinsured or uninsured women between ages 40 to 64 with knowledge, skills and opportunities.
Women learn to improve their diets, increase physical activity and establish other habits to prevent and control cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses.
The American Heart Association supports comprehensive legislation in Congress to eliminate health disparities and works to eliminate health insurance disparity by supporting the Affordable Care Act, the health reform law.
Some of the Research Behind Equity
The American Heart Association’s program to ensure hospitals follow the latest science-based treatment guidelines, called Get With The Guidelines, has been proven to eliminate disparities in care.
Researchers also have discovered that gender differences play an important role in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Congress, the American Heart Association seeks to ensure that new medical treatments are available to cardiovascular disease patients and that safety and effectiveness data for the treatments is available by race and ethnicity as well as gender and age.