Healthcare disparities between different racial and ethnic groups have been known to exist for a long time. Three of the main areas that contribute to these disparities are described below.
Certain racial groups tend to live in poorer neighbourhoods and are more likely to have less access to good nutrition, healthcare services, clean water and a good level of sanitation. Socioeconomic status has been identified as a major determinant of healthcare provision. In the United States, those of poor socioeconomic status are more likely to receive inadequate healthcare due to lack of insurance coverage and financial resources.
Educational status can influence the ability to comprehend medical instructions, comply with medication regimens, recognise warning signs, and attend follow up appointments. Poor education is strongly associated with health problems such as teenage pregnancy, obesity, inadequate physical activity, substance abuse, smoking, alcohol abuse, physical, sexual and emotional abuse and gang involvement.
Effective communication between healthcare providers and patients is critical for the delivery of safe and effective treatment and care. Poor communication can lead to inaccurate diagnosis, incorrect use of medication and failure to attend follow-up appointments. Language differences that exist between a patient and their healthcare provider can lead to a patient feeling confused about the healthcare advice and failing to comply with medical regimens. Communication can also be hindered by culture differences between the healthcare provider and the patient. Providers should take into account their patients’ cultural beliefs and practices in order to properly understand their views on health and disease.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc