Disability is an emerging field within public health; people with significant disabilities account for more than 12% of the US population. Disparity status for this group would allow federal and state governments to actively work to reduce inequities. We summarize the evidence and recommend that observed differences are sufficient to meet the criteria for health disparities: population-level differences in health outcomes that are related to a history of wide-ranging disadvantages, which are avoidable and not primarily caused by the underlying disability. We recommend future research and policy directions to address health inequities for individuals with disabilities; these include improved access to health care and human services, increased data to support decision-making, strengthened health and human services workforce capacity, explicit inclusion of disability in public health programs, and increased emergency preparedness.
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