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Insights and Trends

Behavioral Health Inequity in 2024: Overcoming Three Root Causes

In the U.S., individuals with serious mental illnesses die 15 to 30 years younger than those without mental illness.1 Further, there are specific communities across the nation that are seeing higher rates of mental illness, which has caused what we know today as behavioral health inequity.

Behavioral health inequity refers to the unfair and unjust differences in access to and quality of behavioral health services that exist between different groups of people. These differences can be due to a variety of factors, including race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location.2

Before hospitals can effectively combat behavioral health inequity in their community, it is first important to recognize there is not just one definition.

Understanding Behavioral Health Inequity: Inter- and Intra-Sector3

    • Inter-sector inequities take on a broader view of inequities. For example, regardless of demographic group, patients with behavioral health conditions experience unique inequities in access and outcomes compared to patients with only physical health conditions.

    • Intra-sector inequities zero in on demographic groups who have historically experienced worse behavioral health outcomes than others. This often includes patients of color, those with low incomes and insufficient insurance coverage, and/or those with serious mental illness diagnoses.

Regardless of which inequity a person falls under, it is important for hospitals to acknowledge the growing issue of behavioral health across the nation and to identify the root causes of these inequities so that proper solutions can be provided.

Three Root Causes of Behavioral Health Inequity In 20242

    1. Lack of access to care: One of the main factors contributing to behavioral health inequity is lack of access to care. This can be due to several reasons, such as a shortage of qualified providers, transportation barriers or a lack of program availability in one’s own community.

    2. Discrimination: People from certain groups are more likely to experience discrimination in the healthcare system, which can make it difficult for them to access the care they need. This could relate to someone’s skin tone, a language barrier, religious beliefs, sex and more.

    3. Social determinants of health: Social determinants of health, such as poverty, housing, and education, can also play a role in behavioral health inequity. People who live in poverty or who have limited access to education are more likely to experience behavioral health problems and therefore go longer periods of time without receiving treatment.

Behavioral health inequity will continue to be a major challenge in 2024. However, by understanding the root causes, hospitals can take the next step in overcoming these obstacles, in turn improving the overall health and well-being of the community they serve.

Partnership’s Role in Improving Community Outcomes

Whether your hospital already has a behavioral health program in place or is interested in integrating a brand-new program, having the right tools, resources and expertise to provide comprehensive behavioral healthcare is critical to overcoming behavioral health inequities.

Partnership continues to be a leading strategy for hospitals looking to improve patient outcomes as well as the efficiency of their behavioral health program.

As a leading provider in post-acute services, including behavioral health, Lifepoint helps our partner hospitals generate the highest quality care without expending unnecessary resources and capital: a win for both the hospital and the community they serve.

Contact us to learn how Lifepoint can help your hospital meet the growing need in your community through behavioral health program optimization.


References:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/30/upshot/mental-illness-health-disparity-longevity.html#:~:text=Americans%20with%20depression%2C%20bipolar%20disorder,ethnicity%2C%20geography%20or%20socioeconomic%20status
  2. https://www.advisory.com/blog/2022/08/health-inequity
  3. https://www.advisory.com/topics/health-equity/2022/07/inequities-in-behavioral-health

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