The World Health Organization and the American Public Health Association define health equity as the concept that everyone has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health or full health potential.
The range of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health status and disparities are known as determinants of health. These factors include sex, gender, age, race, ethnicity, culture, geography, policies, socioeconomic factors, and/or the environment. Differences due to these factors are known as health disparities.
NORC has decades of expertise in studying health inequity. Our researchers are skilled in gathering and summarizing reliable data and information on influences that contribute to health disparities as well as promising strategies to help bridge those gaps.
Our experts excel at recruiting and surveying people who are medically underserved and using qualitative as well as quantitative methods to understand health disparities. For example:
- Rural Health. To better understand and serve communities in rural areas, NORC’s specialists have conducted research on rural health disparities for the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and other organizations including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health. For the latter, we implement and evaluate the CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare, the first plan aimed at improving the quality of care provided to minority and other underserved Medicare populations. We have also been assisting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foundations, and others in helping expand health services to residents of rural areas through telehealth research. Telehealth is the delivery of a broad range of medical care, education, and public health services as opposed to telemedicine, which is a more narrow exchange of medical information, diagnoses, and treatments.
- NORC has also created a framework to support states in their efforts to advance health equity within their Medicaid programs. The State Medicaid Agency (SMA) Framework for Advancing Health Equity seeks to assist Medicaid programs in creating a roadmap for advancing health equity in their states. The framework describes internal mechanisms that SMAs can use to develop a health equity strategy and the external levers they can utilize to encourage a broader shift toward health equity within the Medicaid system, all with an eye to ensuring engagement of various stakeholders in the process.
- Minority Health. Since 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH) has chosen NORC to manage and augment one of its essential tools for evaluating the efficacy of awardee efforts, the Performance Improvement Management System (PIMS). NORC has strengthened the PIMS by tailoring multiple evaluation and data services—including systemic monitoring, cross-site evaluation, collection and analysis of intervention effectiveness, awardee training and technical assistance, etc.—to better meet the dynamic needs of the OMH and its awardees as they work to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.
- Tobacco Control. There are large equity and policy gaps in tobacco control research. That’s why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation tasked NORC with conducting a 2019-2021 study to examine how comprehensive bans on the sale of menthol tobacco and flavored electronic nicotine delivery system products affect communities of color as well as the impact of proposed and implemented flavor bans on risk perceptions and tobacco use among youth and young adults of color. These issues have taken on even greater significance in the context of the COVID-19, a respiratory illness that disproportionately affects communities of color, as well as the growing prominence of the social justice movements in the U.S. and related concerns around racism.
For more, see the representative projects below.