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Eradicating Health Disparities on a Global Scale

Posted by Dawn Bowker on Mar 19, 2015 3:30:00 PM
Dawn Bowker

Mercy College Student on an immersion trip.

Health disparities are caused by a complex interaction of genetics, behavior, social conditions, environmental influences, and health care. Considerations to eradicate health disparities on a global scale require identifying mechanisms which largely contribute to health disparities.

Social Determinants of Health (SDH): SDH are largely responsible for the inequities and health disparities by communities, groups and individuals. Social determinants of health, the conditions on which people are born, grow, live, work, and age are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at a global, national and local levels (NIH, 2011).

Health Inequities: Decreasing health inequities worldwide requires a realistic view of causes. Health inequities are avoidable inequities in health between groups. A major contributor to health inequities is social gradient. The poorest of the poor, around the world, have the worst health. According to the WHO (2008), the lower an individual’s socioeconomic position the worst their health.

Cultural Competence: An awareness of the diversities and universalities of individuals and cultures is paramount. Caring is the basis of culturally competent care. Caring is a powerful and dynamic force in understanding health and illness in any culture. The totality of human behavior and what influences one beliefs must be considered for there to be successful outcomes.

  1. There is evidence to support the contribution and importance of social determinants on health disparities but more research is needed in the way of effective intervention to reduce the health disparities and mechanisms underlying the effects of health disparities and health outcomes.

Policy. A shift in paradigm will be needed to make effective changes in policy. The focus will need to change from health care to health promotion. Health promotion is a primary intervention that will favorably influence health outcomes, especially among disparate populations worldwide. 

Eradicating health disparities worldwide is complex and multifactorial. Recognizing the social determinants, health inequities, employing cultural competence and research, and engaging in policy can we begin to eradicate some of the health disparities worldwide.

Leininger, M.M. & McFarland, M.R. (2006). Culture care diversity and universality: A worldwide nursing theory (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

National Institute of Health (NIH), (2011). Health Disparities. National Institute of Health.  

World Health Organization (WHO), (2008). Social determinants of health: Key concepts. World Health Organization. 


Mercy College students have several unique opportunities to participate in life-changing experiences that will open your eyes to the world outside our doors and add relevance to your healthcare education. Learn more about these cultural immersion and service learning opportunities now:

Discover Cultural Immersion Learning Opportunities

Topics: Servant Leadership, Global Health