Resources for Addressing Disparities and Improving Quality


Quality health care means delivering services in ways that are safe, timely, patient centered, effective, efficient, and equitable. Unfortunately, our health care system often distributes services inefficiently and unevenly across populations, and some Americans receive worse care than others in the United States. Variations in health care and health status among racial and ethnic and socioeconomic groups continue to challenge the nation.

The nature and size of quality disparities for vulnerable populations also vary across geographic areas, such that some States have larger gaps than others, as can be seen in State Snapshots. Even areas with smaller disparities between populations may warrant quality improvement efforts if the overall population is experiencing lower quality care.

The combination of unique population demographics and health care environments coupled with access to policy and program levers makes States an appropriate initiator of action to reduce health care disparities. States also have new opportunities and incentives to address health disparities in light of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As States increasingly pursue activities to improve the health status and quality of care for vulnerable populations, such as racial and ethnic groups, AHRQ is developing and facilitating access to tools that can aid States in their efforts. Below are categories of resources available to States:


Raising Awareness

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Source Resource Description
AHRQ National Healthcare Quality Report Reports trends in health care quality, including effectiveness of care, patient safety, timeliness of care, patient centeredness, and efficiency of care
AHRQ National Healthcare Disparities Report Summarizes health care quality and access among various racial, ethnic, and income groups and other priority populations, such as residents of rural areas and people with disabilities
CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report-United States (2013) Consolidates the most recent national data available on disparities in mortality, morbidity, behavioral risk factors, health care access, preventive health services, and social determinants of critical health problems in the US across selected indicators
HHS Healthy People 2020 Provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans
HHS HHS Disparities Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: Implementation Progress Report 2011-2014 Outlines goals and actions HHS will take to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities
NAMExit Disclaimer Unequal Treatment (2002)Exit Disclaimer Assesses the extent of disparities in the types and quality of health services received by U.S. racial and ethnic minorities and non-minorities, explores contributing factors, and recommends policies and practices to eliminate these inequities
CDC Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) The NHPI NHIS was an unprecedented opportunity to collect rich and accurate information from a large NHPI sample about the health of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in all 50 states.
HHS Healthy People 2020 Health Disparities Widget Healthy People 2020 has created a widget that displays disparities data related to the Healthy People 2020 objectives for the Leading Health Indicators (LHIs).
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Collecting Data

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Source Resource Description
Commonwealth FundExit Disclaimer Racial, Ethnic, and Primary Language Data Collection in the Health Care System: An Assessment of Federal Policies and Practices (2001)Exit Disclaimer Provides the first comprehensive analysis of the policies and statutes governing the collection of health care data by race, ethnicity, and primary language
Health Research and Educational TrustExit Disclaimer The HRET Disparities Toolkit: A Toolkit for Collecting Race, Ethnicity, and Primary Language Information from PatientsExit Disclaimer Provides hospitals, health systems, clinics, and health plans information and resources for systematically collecting race, ethnicity, and primary language data from patients
NAMExit Disclaimer Race, Ethnicity, and Language Data: Standardization for Healthcare Quality Improvement (2009)Exit Disclaimer Recommends collection of more granular ethnicity and language data according to national standards
Robert Wood Johnson FoundationExit Disclaimer The National Health Plan Collaborative Toolkit Exit Disclaimer Provides resources, lessons, best practices, and case studies to help health plans join the effort to reduce disparities
CDC National Center for Health Statistics: Health, United States Health, United States is an annual report on trends in health statistics developed by the National Center for Health Statistics.
HHS The Office of Minority Health The Office of Minority Health is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities in the Department of Health and Human Services.
AHRQ Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) is a set of large-scale surveys of families and individuals, their medical providers, and employers across the United States.
AHRQ Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) HCUP is the Nation’s most comprehensive source of hospital care data, including information on in-patient stays, ambulatory surgery and services visits, and emergency department encounters.
AHRQ HCUPnet: Instant Access to Hospital Statistics HCUPnet is a free, on-line query system based on data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP)
NAM Vital Signs: Core Metrics for Health and Health Care Progress Provides a streamlined set of 15 standardized measures that could provide consistent benchmarks for health progress across the nation and improve system performance in the highest priority areas
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Analyzing Data

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Source Resource Description
AHRQ NHQR/NHDR Web Site Provides national and State health care quality information and data, including benchmarks and trends
ASTHOExit Disclaimer Health Equity Snapshot MapExit Disclaimer Provides stand-alone documents that can serve as a quick reference regarding state/territorial minority health and health disparities activities in States or territories
AHRQ Inventory of Benchmarking Databases

Databases with measure results already calculated

Databases from which measure results could be calculated

User's Guide
Information (including hyperlinks) for databases with results for specific U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) quality measures as well as relevant databases from which results could be calculated, for benchmarking quality improvement efforts. Database information includes: geographic scope of the results (national, multistate, single State, regions within a State), reporting unit (clinician, health plan, hospital, nursing home, hospice, end-stage renal disease (ESRD)), type of benchmark (national average, state average, mean), etc.
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Reporting Data

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Source Resource Description
AHRQ Talking Quality Provides guidance on how to communicate health care quality information in understandable and useful ways
NAMExit Disclaimer Future Directions for the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports (2010)Exit Disclaimer Provides recommendations on how the NHQR and NHDR can be improved to make them more influential in promoting change in the health care system
NASHPExit Disclaimer State Documentation of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities to Inform Strategic Action (2011)Exit Disclaimer Summarizes how leading States analyze race/ethnicity data in strategic plans and reports aimed at reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health status and health care
NASHPExit Disclaimer State Uses of Hospital Discharge Databases to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities (2010)Exit Disclaimer Summarizes how leading States that participate in the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) and their clients use hospital discharge data on patient race/ethnicity to inform State health care disparities reduction activities
Robert Wood Johnson FoundationExit Disclaimer Creating Equity Reports: A guide for Hospitals (2008)Exit Disclaimer Provides a framework for equity reporting and shares lessons learned from experiences creating and using such reports
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Identifying Best Practices

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Source Resource Description
AHRQ Quality Diagnostic Tools for States Consists of events and technical assistance opportunities that disseminate and encourage the use of AHRQ Quality Improvement tools to support State policymakers with their health care quality improvement efforts
AHRQ Diabetes Care Quality Improvement: A Resource Guide for State Action Helps States assess the quality of diabetes care and create quality improvement strategies
AHRQ Asthma Care Quality Improvement: A Resource Guide for State Action Helps States assess the quality of asthma care and create quality improvement strategies
NAMExit Disclaimer Challenges and Successes in Reducing Health Disparities: Workshop Summary (2008)Exit Disclaimer Summarizes workshop designed to increase the visibility of disparities and to develop strategies to reduce disparities
NQFExit Disclaimer Comprehensive Framework and Preferred Practices for Measuring and Reporting Cultural Competency (2009)Exit Disclaimer Outlines a comprehensive framework for measuring and reporting cultural competency and provides a detailed set of preferred practices for culturally competent care
Assuring Healthcare Equity: A Healthcare Equity Blueprint (2008)Exit Disclaimer Offers strategies and practices that can be tailored to individual hospitals to address equity in providing quality care
Robert Wood Johnson FoundationExit Disclaimer Improving Quality and Achieving Equity: A Guide for Hospital Leaders (2009)Exit Disclaimer Serves as a health care quality improvement guide for CEOs, high-level managers in hospitals, and other leaders in the fields of safety, finance, and risk reduction in hospitals
Robert Wood Johnson FoundationExit Disclaimer Expecting Success Toolkit: Excellence in Cardiac Care (2008)Exit Disclaimer Provides tips for hospitals on improving the quality of care and reducing disparities based on the experience of 10 participating hospitals
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Tracking Success

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Source Resource Description
AHRQ MONAHRQ Enables organizations - such as State and local data organizations, Chartered Value Exchanges, hospital systems, and health plans - to input their own hospital administrative data and generate a data-driven Web site
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Focusing on Specific Vulnerable Populations

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Children and Adolescents
Source Resource Description
AHRQ Child Health Care Quality Toolbox: Measuring Quality in Children’s Health Programs Provides concepts, tips, and tools for evaluating the quality of health care for children
NASHPExit Disclaimer Enhancing State and Local Capacity to Promote Healthy Weight in Children: Addressing Disparities in the Real World (2005)Exit Disclaimer Provides practical information that States and community groups can use to implement projects aimed at reducing disparities in childhood overweight
Low Income Groups
Source Resource Description
CMS Health Care Coverage Analyses of the 2000-2008 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report (2014) For the first time, presents data on quality and racial and ethnic disparity measures by payer
Older Americans
Source Resource Description
CDC Clinical Preventive Services for Older Adults Offers examples of recent activities and interventions that have focused on increasing the use of clinical preventive services in diverse communities
CDC Promoting Preventive Services for Adults 50-64 Identifies a set of recommended preventive services, provides indicators and data with which to monitor progress, and promotes successful strategies to facilitate adoption and use
Source Resource Description
AHRQ Chartbook on Women's Health Care, 2014 Summarizes key findings from the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports related to health care for women
Persons with Disabilities
Source Resource Description
AHRQ Statistical Brief #312: Patient-Provider Communication by Race/Ethnicity and Disability Status: United States, 2007 (2011) Examines patient-provider communication by race/ethnicity and disability status using data from the Household Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-HC)
Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) Research Addressing the HHS Strategic Framework on Multiple Chronic Conditions Identifies common combinations of multiple chronic conditions to help in targeting interventions for specific subgroups and examines promising data, methods, and topics for conducting disparities research within the multiple chronic conditions population
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