Overview: Reducing Health Disparities

Reducing disparities in health will give everyone a chance to live a healthy life and improve the quality of life of all Americans.

A health disparity is a difference in health outcomes across subgroups of the population, often linked to social, economic or environmental disadvantages. Behavioral health disparities persist in diverse communities, including racial and ethnic groups, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) populations, and people with disabilities, transition-age youth, and young adults. Within these populations there can be increased mental health and substance use disorders. These diverse populations tend to have less access to care, lower or disrupted service use, and poorer behavioral health outcomes.

An important aim and focus for VCBH is to identify and expand local data sources that indicate risk factors, community needs, protective factors and measure outcomes among multiple subpopulations residing within Ventura County. With local data, we can strengthen how we improve practice techniques and innovate service programs - efforts needed to proactively reform our behavioral health systems.

In 2014, the Office of Health Equity and Training (OHET) was established within VCBH to better assess and address the needs of underserved communities within Ventura County. Since that time, the OHET assessed some needs of these underserved communities along with other at-risk/vulnerable populations using existing data. Over time, these data will be used to better inform and gauge prevention efforts among underserved/vulnerable/at-risk populations. Although ethnic minorities such as Hispanics/Latinos, African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and others may be more vulnerable to substance use, local data—both quantitative and qualitative—are extremely limited. And because there may be major differences in how consequences are experienced by these groups, we need more local research to understand specific prevention needs.

Prevention Services is committed to addressing at-risk and underserved populations and their communities in Ventura County. Source: County of Ventura, Strategic Prevention Plan, 2017-2022.


  • The Social Determinants of Mental Health, Michael T. Compton, M.D., M.P.H., and Ruth S. Shim, M.D., M.P.H., 2015
The Social Determinants of Mental Health aims to fill the gap that exists in the psychiatric, scholarly, and policy-related literature on the social determinants of mental health: those factors stemming from where we learn, play, live, work, and age that impact our overall mental health and well-being. The editors and an impressive roster of chapter authors from diverse scholarly backgrounds provide detailed information on topics such as discrimination and social exclusion, adverse early life experiences, poor education, unemployment, underemployment, and job insecurity, income inequality, poverty, and neighborhood deprivation, food insecurity, poor housing quality and housing instability, adverse features of the built environment, and poor access to mental health care.

  • Designing Healthy Communities, Richard J. Jackson, 2011
Designing Healthy Communities, the companion book to the acclaimed public television documentary, highlights how we design the built environment and its potential for addressing and preventing many of the nation's devastating childhood and adult health concerns. Dr. Richard Jackson looks at the root causes of our malaise and highlights healthy community designs achieved by planners, designers, and community leaders working together.



The Office of Behavioral Health Equity (OBHE) works to reduce mental health and substance use disparities and improve access to quality care.

  • Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander - Resources include national survey reports, agency and federal initiatives, related behavioral health resources, and in-language resources. www.samhsa.gov/behavioral-health-equity/aanhpi


The Office of Health Equity (OHE) was established to provide a key leadership role to reduce health and mental health disparities to vulnerable communities. A priority of this groundbreaking office is building of cross-sectoral partnerships. Portrait of Promise: The Statewide Plan to Promote Health and Mental Health Equity presents background and evidence on the root causes and consequences of health inequities in California. This report explores a broad range of socioeconomic forces that shape the health of entire communities, especially the vulnerable and underserved communities. Read the report.

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