Racial and ethnic disparities are still a challenge for
patients in the U.S. health care system, according to a paper released this
week by the American College of Physicians.
The paper an update to a policy paper originally
released in 2003 outlines recommendations on how to close the gap
between racial or ethnic minority patients and those of Caucasian descent.
Closing the health care disparities gap will be a
difficult, multifaceted, and important task, J. Fred Ralston, Jr., MD,
FACP, president of the American College of Physicians (ACP), said in a
press release. Overwhelming evidence shows that racial and ethnic
minorities continue to be prone to poorer quality health care than white
Americans, even when factors such as insurance status are controlled.
The ACPs recommendations include a call for all
legal residents to be provided with affordable health insurance. This is in
line with their further assertion that all patients, regardless of race,
ethnic origin, gender, nationality, primary language, socioeconomic status,
sexual orientation, cultural background, age, disability or religion deserve
high-quality health care.
As society becomes more racially and ethnically diverse,
the ACP noted, physicians and other health care professionals need to
acknowledge the cultural, informational and linguistic needs of their patients,
as well as understand that sensitivity to the issue is necessary in reducing or
eliminating the current disparities.
A reform of the health care delivery system was also
called for, as well as more diversity in the health care workforce.
Other targets included education, housing, job security
and environmental health all of which the ACP claimed still contain
inequities that must be addressed.
The ACP also stated a need for more research and data
collection related to racial and ethnic health disparities, citing its
necessity in empowering stakeholders to better understand and address the
Racial and ethnic disparities in health care
present a difficult challenge that results from the interaction of multiple
complex factors, for which there are no easy solutions, Ralston stated in
the release. However, we as physicians, and as a society, have a moral
imperative that appropriate resources are devoted to responding to the
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