New report documents health disparities between populations in the state

A new report from the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality documents health disparities in the state for individuals with various types of health insurance coverage. 

It also breaks down disparities among ethnic groups and for urban and rural residents. 

“This information makes it possible to benchmark current performance and measure progress over time,” said Matt Gigot, WCHQ director of performance measurement and analysis.  

Report authors say health disparities related to health insurance coverage may be linked to variation in coverage, co-pays or deductible amounts, or the cost of care. 

Individuals with commercial insurance were less likely to be below recommended weight levels, while those with Medicare had lower cervical cancer screening. 

Patients with Medicaid or who were uninsured had lower rates of childhood vaccinations, breast and colon cancer screening, depression screening and attainment of recommended weight. Of those in this category with diabetes, blood sugar control was lower. 

The report also found individuals on Medicaid had lower blood pressure control and lower rates of being tobacco-free if they had diabetes or heart disease. And uninsured individuals had much lower rates of HPV vaccination. 

The WCHQ report highlighted disparities for rural and urban areas, though none of these differences amounted to “substantial disparities” based on the group’s definition. Still, rural areas tended to have lower rates of adolescent immunizations, while urban areas had lower rates of depression screening. 

The report shows American Indian or Alaskan Native children had lower childhood vaccination rates, while adults had lower rates of breast cancer screening. And adults in this category were less likely to be below recommended weight and tobacco-free if they had diabetes or heart disease. 

Asian and Pacific Islander adults had much lower rates of breast and colorectal cancer screening. 

Meanwhile, white adolescents had lower rates of HPV vaccination and white adults tended to be overweight. 

By comparison, African American children had lower childhood immunization rates, and adults performed worse on recommended weight and blood pressure control measures. Also, black adults who had diabetes or heart disease were less likely to be tobacco-free. 

And Hispanic or Latino adults were more likely to be overweight, and those with diabetes had lower blood sugar control. 

Across the board, obesity has reached “epidemic levels” in the state, the report shows. Nearly half of the state’s residents are obese. 

The WCHQ Health Disparities Report was created in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Health Innovation Program. Funding came from the Wisconsin Partnership Program within the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. 

Report co-author Maureen Smith, a professor with the UW SMPH, says “a targeted approach” can help improve the picture by focusing on “one or two areas where the group is experiencing disparities.” 

“If we want to close the gaps in health outcomes and care for people who are experiencing multiple disparities, it will require a community-wide response from multiple stakeholders who can address issues such as poverty, housing, food insecurity and a number of other factors that have an impact on overall health,” Smith said. 

See the report: