Fast Five Quiz: Social Disparities in Healthcare

Arthur L. Caplan, PhD


November 24, 2020

The term "social disparities in healthcare" refers to discrepancies in the incidence, prevalence, and mortality of diseases as well as the associated adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups. These disparities are closely related to social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage and occur across multiple dimensions, including race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, geographic location, gender, disability status, citizen status, and sexual orientation.

By definition, health and healthcare disparities pertain to differences in health and healthcare among groups. A "health disparity" is attributed to a higher prevalence of disability, injury, illness, or mortality experienced by one group compared to another. A "healthcare disparity" is characterized by differences among groups in quality of care, access to and use of care, and health insurance coverage.

Not only do these disparities affect the populations facing them, but they also curb overall gains in quality of care and health for the broader population. Approximately $93 billion in excess medical care costs and $42 billion in lost productivity are the result of social disparities in healthcare, in addition to the economic losses that result from premature deaths. As the US population becomes increasingly diverse, the importance of addressing healthcare disparities has taken on increased urgency.

How familiar are you with social disparities in healthcare? Test yourself with this quick quiz.