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Diversity Matters

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman."

- Attributed to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

As a health professions student, you need to be aware of the complex issues that shape the health care field in the United States.

Some of the most urgent topics today revolve around our nation’s need to eliminate inequities in the quality and availability of health care for ethnic, racial and economic minorities. 

Closely connected to this is the need to increase both the diversity and the cultural competence of our health care workforce.

Read more about:

For links to resources on other health policy issues, see Health Policy Topics

For links to diversity-focused career and education opportunities, see Links.

To take action on these or other health care issues, see the "Service & Volunteerism" section of Humanism in Health Care

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If you've found a useful website on a healthcare issue you care about, please share it!  Email a brief description of the resource, why you find it useful and the website's URL to contactus@explorehealthcareers.org.

 

Health and Health Care Disparities

Numerous studies in recent years have documented disparities in the quality of health and health care among different racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups. 

  • Persons in families who are poor (14.7 percent) are about twice as likely as persons in high-income families (7.2 percent) to be unable to get or delayed in getting needed medical care, dental care or prescription medicines.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks residing in a non-Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) were less likely to have seen the doctor for a routine preventive visit, compared to non-Hispanic blacks residing in an MSA.
  • Based on information from the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality's National Healthcare Disparities Report 2011, Blacks received worse care than Whites for 41% of quality measures. Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives received worse care than Whites for about 30% of quality measures. Hispanics received worse care than non-Hispanic Whites for 39% of measures.

For more information about health disparities, see:

 

 

 

 

 

Workforce Diversity

In 2004, the Sullivan Commission published Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions, its landmark report on the lack of diversity in the U.S. health care workforce.

Since then, numerous authorities in the health care field have agreed that increasing diversity in the health care workforce is essential, if we are to effectively address the problem of health care disparities in the United States. Experts have identified several strategies to increase diversity, including improving primary and secondary education and changing admissions policies in health professions schools, including medical schools.  

Find out more about health care workforce diversity:

 

 

 

Cultural Competence

Enter virtually any American health care facility, and you will see patients from all over the world struggling to negotiate the U.S. health care system and clinicians struggling to understand and meet their needs. But cultural competency is more than speaking another language. It means being aware of and responding to the sensibilities of patients whose cultures and values may be very different from your own.   

In April 2000, the Commonwealth Fund awarded a grant to the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics "to create an educational tool that would bring clarity to the issue of cross cultural health." The documentary film “Worlds Apart” follows four families of diverse backgrounds facing critical medical decisions and reveals how the patients' cultures contrast with the culture of the American health care system.

Read more about cultural competency: