Closing the Gap on Health Disparities

kathysykeswritten by Kathy Sykes
Senior Advisor for Aging and Public Health at the EPA Office of Research and Development

This post is shared with permission from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. It was originally posted on StatePublicHealth.org. Stylistic edits have been made.

What do health disparities, interest on the national debt, and gun violence have in common? Would you believe it’s economic impact, to the tune of $229 billion dollars? That is not small change. This figure demonstrates the magnitude of an issue that continues to burden our society.

The number comes from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which calculated that during 2003-2006, we would have saved $229 billion in direct healthcare expenditures if we had eliminated health disparities (MMWR). Surprisingly, it also happens to be the total annual cost of gun violence each year, ($8.6 billion in direct costs and $221 billion in indirect costs; Mother Jones). It also happens to be what our country spent as interest on the national debt in 2015 (National Priorities Project).

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