Let me break down some eye-opening information I recently learned about the financial costs of racial and ethnic health disparities in the United States.
Studies have shown that the economic burden of these disparities is incredibly high, ranging from $421 billion to $451 billion for health disparities alone. When we include disparities in education, the costs skyrocket to $940 billion to $978 billion! This means that the financial impact of these inequities is greater than the annual growth rate of the entire U.S. economy.
So, where does this financial burden come from? It’s a combination of spending more on healthcare, losing productivity in the workforce, and premature deaths. Certain communities are disproportionately affected, with the Black community carrying 69% of the burden due to premature deaths. Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native populations also face significant economic burdens per person.
Interestingly, these health disparities vary from state to state. The Black population has the highest economic burden in most states, followed by Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander populations.
When we compare the economic burden to each state’s GDP, it ranges from 0.14% in Vermont to a staggering 8.89% in Mississippi! Shockingly, in 17 states, the burden is even higher than the annual growth rate of the entire U.S. economy in 2018.
Education also plays a role in these disparities. Adults with a high school diploma face the highest costs and burden, followed by those with less than a high school diploma. Adults with some college education have a lower burden.
The key takeaway here is that these disparities not only impact social justice but also have practical implications. They drag down our economy and affect everyone. We all suffer when a portion of our population faces unnecessary barriers to good health.
What can we do about it? It’s essential to address these disparities through policies that promote equitable access to healthcare, education, and resources. By reducing barriers and ensuring equal opportunities for all, we can improve health outcomes, strengthen our economy, and create a fairer society for everyone.