In 2003, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) re-defined "health disparities" to include "basic, clinical and social sciences studies that focus on identifying, understanding, preventing, diagnosing, and treating health conditions such as diseases, disorders, and other conditions that are unique to, more serious, or more prevalent in subpopulations in socioeconomically disadvantaged (i.e., low education level, live in poverty) and medically underserved, rural, and urban communities."
A focus on mental health disparities considers the above mentioned discrepancies as well as those surrounding services, cultural and linguistic competencies, and related issues that affect patients' and communities' access to mental health care.
"... Policies that benefit people irrespective of individual resources or initiative ... will be more effective in reducing health disparities than policies that require individuals to marshal resources to obtain health benefits."
(Bruce G. Link and Jo C. Phelan, "Fundamental Sources of Health Inequalities," p. 72. Published in Policy Challenges in Modern Health Care, 2004.)