Health disparities are defined as particular types of health differences closely linked with economic, social, or environmental disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social or economic obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, or mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion (Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. 2002). Health care disparities are differences in access to and delivery of health care itself due to the above factors.

Health disparities are pervasive across all aspects of medicine, though they are relatively under-recognized in surgery, anesthesia, and pain management. Several studies illustrate the existence of perioperative health inequities, which result in health and health care disparities that negatively impact patient outcomes and experiences. One example is the...

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