Minorities Believe They Receive Far Different Medical Care Than Whites, Survey FindsNASHVILLE, Tenn.
Anew poll shows that while Americans are divided about the extent to which racial and ethnic health care disparities exist, African Americans and Hispanics are as much as three times more likely than Whites to feel that minorities receive a lower level of care.
Although one in five Whites acknowledge that minorities receive lower levels of quality medical care than White Americans do, two-thirds of African Americans feel that way as do 41 percent of Hispanics, according to the poll.
The survey results were released last month at a forum in Nashville, Tenn., co-sponsored by the Harvard Forums on Health, the journal Health Affairs, The New America Foundation, and a group of academic and public health partners in the state, including Vanderbilt Medical Center and Meharry Medical College.
The survey cited several reasons for unequal treatment, including cultural and language barriers and discrimination on the part of health professionals. It also revealed that large numbers of Americans support penalizing providers and insurers with a history of delivering unequal care based on a person’s race or ethnicity.
“The poll findings show a persistent feeling among minorities that the care they are getting is not equal to that of Whites,” says Dr. David Blumenthal, director of Harvard University’s Interfaculty Program on Health Systems Improvement, which organized the forum. “Inequality in medical access and treatment is a problem for many Americans that can no longer be ignored,” he says.
The responses validate the 2002 landmark Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, which found that racial and ethnic minorities receive lower quality health care than Whites even when they are insured and other factors are considered. That IOM report also found that while there are complex reasons for racial and ethnic health care inequities, evidence suggests that bias, prejudice and stereotyping, on the part of doctors and other health care providers may contribute to the problem (see Black Issues, May 23, 2002).
The Harvard Forums on Health commissioned the national poll, conducted by the Washington, D.C.,-based firm Lake Snell Perry & Associates (LSPA) in late August 2003, to explore the public’s knowledge about disparities in health care and their opinions about various policy options to remedy inequities in the health care system. LSPA surveyed 806 Americans age 18 and older and included oversamples of African Americans and Hispanics. For more information about the survey visit the Web site <www.phsi.harvard.edu>.
In addition, three grants totaling $27 million were awarded to Meharry Medical College by the National Institutes of Health earlier this month, expanding the college’s position as a national leader in medical research that fosters the elimination of health status disparities.
The three grants include:
• $15 million to establish endowed chairs and professorships, enabling the recruitment of renowned scientists to lead three different health disparity research centers at Meharry;
• $4.3 million to strengthen the research infrastructure at Meharry through the addition of new research faculty members, administrative support and structured processes to integrate research, prevention, health education, health maintenance and treatment; and
• $7.7 million to establish a center and recruit scientists to study health disparities in HIV/AIDS.
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