Ending Health Disparities

The Commonwealth Fund, in a report on how to eliminate health disparities, says that the following steps should be considered in developing policies to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities:

  • Consistent racial and ethnic data collection by health care providers.
  • Effective evaluation of disparities-reduction programs.
  • Minimum standards for culturally and linguistically competent health services.
  • Greater minority representation within the health care workforce.
  • Establishment or enhancement of government offices of minority health.
  • Expanded access to services for all ethnic and racial groups.
  • Involvement of all health system representatives in minority health improvement efforts.

Other methods for ending health disparities or reducing health disparities have been suggested based on research that observes cultural differences within health care systems. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the assisting authors Cindy Brach and Irene Fraserirector, in an effort to reduce disparities between racial and ethnic groups, the health care system should consider the following nine cultural competency techniques:

  • Interpreter services. If agencies take an active approach in hiring professional interpreters, for both foreign languages and for the speaking and hearing impaired, communication barriers will begin to decrease.
  • Recruitment and Retention. Healthcare systems need to become more conscious of the staff within their facilities. It is essential to the reduction of disparities that most minority groups be represented within the various health care offices and clinics.
  • Training. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and its assisting authors emphasized the importance of health care professionals being trained to work with interpreters and minority groups.
  • Coordinating with traditional healers. Health care workers should be supportive and able to adjust health care plans according to the patient’s cultural beliefs and traditional health practices.
  • Use of Community Health Workers. These individuals could be responsible for bringing in the population of people who rarely seek out health care.
  • Culturally competent health promotion. This information can be available through community health workshops, or simply by health care workers taking the necessary measures to promote early detection and treatment and outlining the good and risky health behaviors to all patients.
  • Including family and/or community members. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality states that this particular cultural competency may be vital to obtaining consent and adherence to treatments.
  • Immersion into another culture. Allowing yourself to step outside of your comfort zone will increase your tolerance for another culture as well as raise your awareness to new ideals and beliefs.
  • Administrative and Organizational accommodations. These are some aspects of the health care offices that should be considered; they include the location of the healthcare offices, public transportation availability, clinic hours, the physical environment of the clinic, and the rapport built with the patients.

Further Reading

This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article on "Health disparities" All material adapted used from Wikipedia is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Wikipedia® itself is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011

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