Local Health Departments' Engagement in Addressing Health Disparities: The Effect of Health Informatics

Gulzar H. Shah, Georgia Southern University
William A. Mase, Georgia Southern University
Kristie Cason Waterfield, Georgia Southern University




Health disparities and health inequities can lead to poor health outcomes. However, health disparities continue to persist in communities across the United States, presenting a crucial public health challenge. Persisting budget cuts and workforce challenges tend to hinder local health departments' (LHDs') ability to assess and address health disparities.


To examine the extent to which LHDs' use of informatics effects their engagement in strategies and activities addressing health disparities.


Data from the 2016 Profile of LHDs were used in examining the association of informatics with 9 activities addressing health disparities/inequities.


Fifty-nine percent of LHDs used data and described health disparities in their jurisdiction, and 12% conducted original research to link health disparities to differences in social or environmental conditions. Less than 40% of LHDs prioritized resources for the reduction of health disparities. LHDs that implemented information systems had increased odds of describing the disparities in their jurisdiction (P < .01) and having prioritized resources for the reduction of disparities (P < .01). Per capita expenditures, participation in a national accreditation program process, and a larger LHD population were also positively associated with 7 of 9 activities for addressing health disparities/inequities.


As LHDs advance efforts to reduce health disparities and inequities, leadership will find informatics a useful strategy. National initiatives aimed to boost LHDs' engagement in the reduction of disparities might benefit from our findings, positing a positive influence of informatics.