In early 2007, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies convened the Roundtable on Health Disparities to increase the visibility of racial and ethnic health disparities as a national problem, further the development of programs and strategies to reduce disparities, foster the emergence of leadership on this issue, and track promising activities and developments in health care that could lead to dramatically reducing or eliminating disparities. The Roundtable on Health Disparities includes representatives from the health professions, state and local government, foundations, philanthropy, academia, advocacy groups, and community based organizations. Its mission is to facilitate communication across sectors and—above all—to generate action. Through national and local activities, the Roundtable strives to advance the goal of eliminating health disparities. On July 31, 2007, the first workshop of the Roundtable on Health Disparities was held at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, Missouri. To help stimulate new thinking about solutions and to inform its future meetings and discussions, the Roundtable brought together a diverse group of participants from a variety of fields to discuss racial and ethnic differences in life expectancy in the United States. Measured in terms of life expectancy, tens of millions of Americans experience levels of health that are more typical of middle- and low-income developing countries. These mortality differences are caused primarily by chronic diseases and injuries with well established risk factors and are potentially amenable to intervention
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