Document Type

Senior Thesis

Publication Date



Significant disproportionate human suffering is experienced by socially disadvantaged populations as a result of preventable difference in the burden of disease, injury, violence, and/or opportunities to achieve optimal health. Disparities in health refer to differences between two or more population groups in health outcomes and in the prevalence, incidence, or burden of disease, disability, injury, or death (CNHEOa 2013). Health disparities are discriminatory and are directly related to the historical and current unequal distribution of social, political, economic, and environmental resources (CDC 2007). While such disparities are more visible when comparing health status of whole countries, they are also embedded in the structure within individual countries and even with local communities.

In this thesis I argue that significant health disparities exist between ethnic-minorities and whites in the United States as a result of social and governmental structures, such as national and local policies and lack of accessibility to community social services. Structures that allow such indirect yet noteworthy forms of human suffering are forms of structural violence. On various structural levels, scholars, policy makers, and ordinary people alike, must recognize health disparities as an issue of injustice for the specific groups subjected to systematic racial discrimination.

First, I explore the value of health care in the United States, and then examine differences in health statuses in various social determinants among ethnic-minorities and whites in the United States. Second, I discuss how barriers of inadequate access of healthier opportunities are an act of structural violence. Thirdly, I provide a small case study of health disparities among Hispanics in McLean County Illinois where the Hispanic population has significantly increased in recent years in a predominately white community. Lastly, I explore innovated strategies to eliminate health disparities and strive for health equity. I conclude that (1) health care is fundamentally a ethical issue and a matter of basic human rights, (2) health disparities can be viewed as an act of structural violence and exist on various structural levels, including the community level, and (3) health disparities can be reduced and eventually eliminated by advancing policies, programs or practices that address factors that impact health.

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Anthropology Commons