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Keywords

health disparities; health care disparities; health equity; race/ethnicity; social determinants of health; databases; survey data; big data; health data; data sharing; Federal government

Abstract

Numerous Federal initiatives are addressing health and health care disparities. The ultimate goal is to achieve “a nation free of disparities in health and health care.” Social determinants of health remain mostly responsible for health/health care disparities among population groups within and between countries. In the United States, there is little evidence that disparities associated with such determinants are decreasing, with only 10% of those associated with race/ethnicity and income having demonstrated improvement in recent years. A variety of data sources are available from the Federal and private sectors to support research on disparities, but no single national survey seems to provide information that allows comprehensive analyses of health/health care disparities. With the Health Data and Big Data Initiatives, much progress has been made in making data more accessible, but the linkage of large databases results in complexity and yet unavailable tools to facilitate these analyses. The limited training of professionals and researchers in data science methods particularly affects their ability to translate findings into policies. New resources are available to promote increased data access and utilization, facilitate research planning and development of quality improvement strategies. Further work is needed to maximize and accelerate the integration of big data and data science to expand opportunities in biomedical and health services research targeting the elimination of health/health care disparities.