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

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Journal of Public Health Management and Practice






Context: 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.

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

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

Results: 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.

Conclusions: 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.