VA Leads Nation in Addressing Healthcare Disparities

By Annette M. Boyle

Dr. Baligh Yehia, deputy under secretary for Health for Community Care

PHILADELPHIA — Shifting demographics and commitment to creating an integrated network that combines community providers and VA facilities has propelled the agency into a leadership position in addressing the healthcare disparities that continue to cost lives and drive up medical expenses.

Between 2003 and 2006, racial/ethnic health disparities alone are estimated to have cost the United States more than $230 billion in direct medical expenditures and more than $1 trillion, when lost productivity and the costs of premature death are included.1

“As the largest integrated health care system in the nation, VA has an opportunity to lead the rest of the country in reducing health and health care disparities,” explained Baligh Yehia, MD, deputy under secretary for Health for Community Care and other senior VA executives in an editorial that accompanied a special supplement to the September issue of Medical Care.2

 

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The VA’s long-term relationship with patients and the growing diversity of the veterans served by the VA have made reducing healthcare disparities an urgent matter for the organization. Racial or ethnic minorities now account for 22% of veterans and are expected to represent 34% of veterans by 2040. During the same period, the percentage of women veterans is projected to double to 20%.

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