As better understanding of health and sickness has led to superior ways of preventing, diagnosing, and treating diseases, the health of most Americans has improved dramatically. However, ample evidence indicates that some Americans do not receive the full benefits of high-quality care. A substantial body of public health, social science, and health services research has shown extensive disparities in health care related to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999 directed AHRQ to track "prevailing disparities in health care delivery as it relates to racial factors and socioeconomic factors in priority populations." The priority populations to be tracked are:

  • Minority groups,
  • Low- income groups,
  • Women,
  • Children,
  • Older adults, and
  • Individuals with special health care needs, including individuals with disabilities and individuals who need chronic care or end-of-life care.

In addition, this legislation directs AHRQ to examine health care delivery in rural areas.

AHRQ has reports, chartbooks, and data on health care disparities.

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  • National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports
    The annual National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report is mandated by Congress to provide a comprehensive overview of the quality of health care received by the general U.S. population and disparities in care experienced by different racial and socioeconomic groups. The report is based on more than 250 measures of quality and disparities covering a broad array of health care services and settings. Selected findings in each priority area are shown in this report, as are examples of large disparities, disparities worsening over time, and disparities showing improvement.
  • National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports website
    This website provides a unified tool for investigating information presented in the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports. It allows users to drill down from the broadest picture of health care quality and disparities on the national and State levels.


National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report Chartbooks

Chartbooks include a summary of trends across measures of health care from the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports and figures illustrating select measures of health care. The chartbooks address six priority areas, as well as several priority populations:


Medical Expenditure Panel Survey
The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)-Household Component survey collects demographic characteristics, allowing health care disparities to be examined for any topic within the survey. Most Household Component Summary Data Tables provide data by age, sex, race/ethnicity, health insurance status, poverty status, geographic region, urban vs. rural status, and health status. This page contains links to MEPS Statistical Briefs that address health care disparities.

Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project
AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project provides information on disparities, including statistical briefs that cover disparities in depth.