Reduce Reproductive, Sexual and Maternal Health Disparities

For many reproductive, sexual, and maternal health indicators, wide disparities exist based on socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity. Although national rates have decreased for some of these indicators, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities continue to grow.

While these disparities are often attributed to personal behavior and individual decision-making, reproductive, sexual, and maternal health disparities highlight the failure of a broken health care system and underscore stark inequities in economic, environmental, and social conditions in the United States.1 Many factors related to socioeconomic status, including income level and educational and employment opportunities, as well as the effects of racism, impact health choices and outcomes.

The social determinants of health, an emerging analysis used by public health leaders, elucidates the complex systems and social factors that perpetuate inequity and are impacting the health of urban communities. Acknowledging and addressing the social determinants of health are critical to closing persisting health disparities and achieving reproductive justice.

Local Recommendations:

Continued inequality and lack of access to information and services perpetuate health disparities that harm communities. There are a variety of socioeconomic, social, and environmental inequities that affect reproductive, sexual, and maternal health disparities. To address reproductive, sexual, and maternal health disparities, urban areas should not only increase and ensure equitable access to health care but also work to dismantle the structures that perpetuate the inequities that adversely impact health.
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© 2012 National Institute for Reproductive Health