Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health

Knowledge Path



This knowledge path directs readers to a selection of current, high-quality resources about preventing, identifying, and eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health. Health professionals, program administrators, policymakers, and researchers can use this knowledge path to learn more about health disparities, health equity, and removing barriers to care; for program development; and to locate training resources and information to answer specific questions. A separate brief lists resources for families. This knowledge path has been developed by NCEMCH and will be updated periodically.

View Related NCEMCH Resources for guides about culturally competent services, health literacy, life course and social determinants, and more.


For an overview of racial and ethnic health disparities and Department of Health and Human Services initiatives to reduce them, see HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: A Nation Free of Disparities in Health and Health Care (2011).

For analysis and reporting of the recent trends and ongoing variations in health disparities and inequalities in selected social and health indicators, see CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report—United States, 2013 (2013). Infant mortality, preterm births, and adolescent pregnancy and childbirth are among the maternal and child health (MCH) topics addressed.

Also view Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?, a seven-part documentary series exploring racial and socioeconomic inequalities in health, including disparities in pregnancy outcomes. Discussion guides, video clips, an action toolkit, a resource database, and other materials accompany the series.

Resources for Professionals


  • Advocates for Youth: Youth of Color. Information about the disproportionate rates of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy among adolescents from racial and ethnic minority groups and resources to plan and implement culturally appropriate interventions to meet their needs.

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): Minority Health. Initiatives to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care and research on health care for specific racial and ethnic groups. Presents conference and meeting information, evidence reports, and research findings, including reports on approaches to using race and ethnicity data for reducing disparities in the quality of health and health care. Includes

    National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports. This annual report presents an overview of disparities in quality of and access to health care among racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups in the United States and tracks the nation's progress toward reducing disparities. A chapter focuses on health care disparities within specific priority populations that include racial and ethnic minorities. The NHQRDRnet is an interactive tool for exploring data from the reports. State snapshots provide state-specific information from the annual reports.

    Also see the Health Care Innovations Exchange.

  • Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF): Health Equity. Fact sheets, issue briefs, presentations, and other resources about health care disparities in Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.

  • Census Bureau: Population. Links to data on racial and ethnic populations in the United States. Includes social and economic characteristics for black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, American Indian and Alaska Native populations, and the U.S. foreign-born population. Health topics include disability, fertility, and health insurance.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Minority Health. Information about the demographics, leading causes of death, high prevalence health issues, health disparities, and health statistics for American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian American, black and African American, Hispanic and Latino, and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander populations. Also presents information about programs and internships, an electronic newsletter and blog, and CDC publications on minority health topics. Includes

    Adolescent and School Health: Health Disparities. Fact sheets and recommended action steps to address health disparities, including those experienced by adolescents from various racial and ethnic populations.

    African-American Media Resources. Health information for African-American media outlets, as well as mainstream media that reach audiences of color. Presents story ideas with African-American readers in mind, biographies of African-American experts at CDC, and free, ready-to-print articles on health issues affecting African Americans.

    Disparities in HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STDs, and TB. Information on racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS, viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and tuberculosis (TB).

    Hispanic Media Resources. Health information for Spanish-language media, as well as English-language media that reaches Hispanic audiences. Presents Spanish-language press releases, public service announcements and other information; story ideas with Hispanic readers in mind; and biographies of Spanish-speaking experts at CDC.

    Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH). Community-based programs and culturally tailored interventions to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities across a wide range of health priority areas such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast and cervical cancer, infant mortality, asthma, immunization, and obesity. Includes information on the current REACH program and the program's impact.

  • CityMatCH. Tools and resources for implementing initiatives to mobilize urban communities to reduce infant mortality and pregnancy loss and reduce racial inequities in infant mortality in urban communities.

  • Commonwealth Fund: Vulnerable Populations. Publications, grant and fellowship program information, surveys, and charts about ensuring that vulnerable populations, including people with low incomes, the uninsured, and disadvantaged racial and ethnic minority populations, receive high-quality health care. Equity in health care access and quality, identifying promising models of care, meeting the specific needs of vulnerable populations, and training physicians are among the topics addressed.

  • Families USA: Health Equity. Publications, training opportunities, resources lists, and an electronic newsletter about minority health and racial and ethnic health disparities with a focus on access to care. Includes tools for community leaders to help them engage in health advocacy and improve the health and well-being of their communities.

  • Healthy People 2020 (HP2020). National health-promotion and disease-prevention initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the overarching goals of the initiative is to achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups. A tool on the website's home page allows users to explore data and technical information related to HP202 objectives. Use the MAP-IT (Mobilize, Assess, Plan, Implement, Track) strategy to implement HP2020 locally and view your state's plan for making progress on the HP2020 objectives.

  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities Center for Excellence (HBCU-CFE) in Behavioral Health. Resources to promote student behavioral health to positively impact student retention and expand campus service capacity to provide culturally appropriate behavioral health resources, facilitate best practices dissemination, and improve behavioral health workforce development.

  • Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies: Health. Research information and publications to build the capacity of community leaders to address health disparities.

  • Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF): Disparities Policy Project. Research and policy analysis to provide greater insight and understanding into health care disparities affecting underserved groups and strategies to promote equity in health care.

  • Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). Initiatives on behalf of America's women, infants, children, adolescents, and their families, including Healthy Start, a program to reduce the rate of infant mortality and improve perinatal outcomes in populations at high risk, and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program, a federal, state, and community collaboration to improve health and development outcomes for children who are at risk through evidence-based home-visiting programs.

  • National Alliance for Hispanic Health. Program information and publications about health issues important to the Hispanic community. Offers a toll-free health helpline to help individuals and families find culturally and linguistically proficient health information and referrals to local services.

  • National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health. Resources about improving the health and well being of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders living in the United States.

  • National Association of County and City Public Health Officials (NACCHO): Roots of Health Inequity. Web-based course for public health professionals to consider the root causes of inequity in the distribution of illness, disease, and death and the concepts and strategies that could lead to effective action.

  • National Cancer Institute (NCI): Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD). Information about research, training, and outreach efforts to reduce cancer health disparities.

  • National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC). Tools to increase the capacity of health and mental health programs to design, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service-delivery systems to address growing diversity and persistent disparities and to promote health and mental health equity. Includes resources for MCH training programs on using mentoring as an evidence-based strategy to increase the number of students and faculty from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in MCH programs.

  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): Disparities in Health. Summaries of state laws and legislation aimed at eliminating health disparities for racial and ethnic minorities. Contact information for state offices of minority health or health equity along with a detailed description of state actions that created these offices. Links to publications about health disparities.

  • National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Initiatives to promote the health and well-being of Hispanic Americans by reducing the incidence, burden, and impact of health problems in this community. Nutrition, disease prevention, and affordable healthcare are among the health issues addressed.

  • National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA). Training and advocacy resources to empower Hispanic physicians to be leaders who will help eliminate health disparities and improve the health of Hispanic populations.

  • National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). Grant and program information, press releases, conference information, and the National Institutes of Health strategic plan and budget to address disparities in health.

  • National Medical Association (NMA). Resources and initiatives about parity and justice in medicine and the elimination of disparities in health. Increasing African-American physicians' and patients' participation in biomedical research and clinical trials and health conditions that disproportionally affect African Americans (e.g., asthma, diabetes, HIV/AIDS) are among the topics addressed.

  • National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health (NNED). Resources and initiatives to address disparities and promote equity in behavioral health care. Includes a resource library, webinars and other training forums, and information about meetings and funding opportunities.

  • Office of Minority Health (OMH). Program, funding, and conference information; statistics; profiles of minority population groups; library; news; and publications about public health issues affecting African Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. Issues include racial and ethnic disparities in health. Some resources are available in Spanish. Includes

    A Healthy Baby Begins with You. Initiative to raise awareness about infant mortality with an emphasis on the African-American community. Includes campaign materials and infant mortality disparities fact sheets. Also presents information about another phase of the campaign, the Preconception Peer Educators (PPE) Program, which is designed to educate college students about preconception health and care and to train them to serve as ambassadors for their peers who are not attending college.

    HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: A Nation Free of Disparities in Health and Health Care. (2011).

    Improving Data Collection to Reduce Health Disparities.

    National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity. (2011).

    National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA): NPA Resources. (2016).

    Toolkit for Community Action. (2011).

  • Prevention Institute: Health Equity. Projects and initiatives, publications, tools and services, and profiles in action. Tools include an online primer, a practitioner's guide, and a tool for assessing the status of community conditions and prioritizing them for action to improve health, safety, and health equity.

  • Race Matters Institute. Training tools to help decision-makers, advocates, and elected officials achieve racial equity. Presents data, talking points, and strategies to make the case, shape the message, and do the work.

  • Reproductive Health Equity for Youth (RHEY): Assisting Organizations to Effectively Address Disparities and Inequities in Adolescent Health. Resources and tools for engaging with adolescents from diverse backgrounds and with diverse communities to deliver effective, culturally competent adolescent-pregnancy-prevention programs that meet community needs. Social determinants, enhanced needs and assets assessment, expanding partnerships, cultural competence, diversity as it relates to adolescents, and evaluation are among the topics addressed. Includes webinars, training presentation slides, workbooks, and reports.

  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF): Quality/Equality. Initiatives to help achieve health equity and expand opportunity to pursue the best health possible, through investments in healthy communities, healthy childhood weight, health leadership, and health systems. Includes research and program results, issue briefs, multimedia tools, news, and other resources.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Behavioral Health Equity. Resources and initiatives to eliminate disparities in behavioral health. Includes information on behavioral health issues related to American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, blacks and African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Latinos, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people.

  • UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health: Minority Health Project (MHP). Webcasts, conference materials, reports, news, and other resources about health equity and health disparities research and interventions.

Journal Articles, Reports, Briefs, Guides, and Multimedia Resources


Programs Databases

News and Commentary

Resources for Families

Related NCEMCH Resources

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health: Knowledge Path, 6th ed. (February 2013). (Updated: March 2017).

Author: Susan Brune Lorenzo, M.L.S., NCEMCH; Breanne C. Wilhite, B.S.
Reviewers: Suzanne Bronheim, Ph. D., National Center for Cultural Competence; Olivia K. Pickett, M.A., M.L.S., NCEMCH; Shree Mohanty, M.A., M.S., R.D., L.D., Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Region V.
Editor: Ruth Barzel, M.A., NCEMCH.