Context: A disaster is indiscriminate in whom it affects. Limited research has shown that the poor and medically underserved, especially in rural areas, bear an inequitable amount of the burden.
Objective: To review the literature on the combined effects of a disaster and living in an area with existing health or health care disparities on a community's health, access to health resources, and quality of life.
Methods: We performed a systematic literature review using the following search terms: disaster, health disparities, health care disparities, medically underserved, and rural. Our inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed, US studies that discussed the delayed or persistent health effects of disasters in medically underserved areas.
Results: There has been extensive research published on disasters, health disparities, health care disparities, and medically underserved populations individually, but not collectively.
Conclusions: The current literature does not capture the strain of health and health care disparities before and after a disaster in medically underserved communities. Future disaster studies and policies should account for differences in health profiles and access to care before and after a disaster.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2010;4:30-38)