This targeted review of the literature offers several key conclusions:
- While race/ethnicity has been a major focus of the disparities literature, fewer studies report on potential disparities based on factors such as gender and socioeconomic status. It is not clear whether this is because studies have examined these factors and found no differences (a publication bias) or because disparity studies involving gender and socioeconomic status have not been done.
- Among the numerous studies that have addressed disparities in the quality of care, few examined whether the pattern of disparity is consistent across age groups. While increasing prevalence of chronic conditions is expected among older age groups, it is unclear whether disparities based on race/ethnicity or gender are larger or smaller in the ≥65 age group. Studies that have examined the impact of Medicare on previously uninsured adults did not address how disparities contributed to these findings (McWilliams et al 2007).
- The most successful approaches to reducing disparities in health care appear to be interventions that target multiple causes of disparities.