health disparities; health equity; military medicine; underserved populations


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Eliminating health disparities and achieving health equity are central to US national health objectives and the Military Health System’s “quadruple aim,” which has readiness as its core aim. Because military service members enjoy universal eligibility for health care, it is sometimes assumed that health disparities do not exist in the Department of Defense (DoD). However, while some studies have shown that disparities have been attenuated or eliminated in the DoD, others suggest that significant disparities remain. Reasons these disparities may remain include that universal eligibility for care does not necessarily result in equal to access to care, and that equal access to care does not necessarily result in health equity. Priority groups for DoD health equity research and advocacy efforts should include: racial and ethnic minorities, sexual and gender minorities, women, and enlisted ranks. The DoD can advance health equity by improving data quality, increasing relevant population health research, targeting interventions towards the social determinants of health, improving the health care experience, and integrating DoD health equity efforts with those in the US society at large.