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New Joint Center Partnership Focuses

New Joint Center Partnership Focuses
On Diversifying Health Care Work Force     

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has partnered with former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, to increase racial and ethnic diversity within the nation’s health care work force. This alliance will spearhead the implementation of the recommendations of the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce and those of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Panel 2004 Report, which showed clear links between a diverse and culturally-sensitive health care system and health outcomes for communities of color.

The Sullivan report, “Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions,” and the IOM report, “In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce,” both emphasized the critical role of health care work force diversity in improving the quality of service delivery and overcoming barriers to access to care among racial and ethnic minorities.

“We are pleased that the Joint Center is partnering with Dr. Sullivan on this important issue,” said Joint Center president Togo West Jr. “Access to quality health care is the most important issue facing every American today. It is an even greater imperative for communities of color. Through this project, we expect to finally have concrete steps aimed at ensuring that communities of color are served by people who understand and can meet their needs.”

In its initial phase, the project will focus on building alliances with federal and other government agencies, as well as corporations and nonprofit and community-based organizations. It will also work to implement the Sullivan Commission’s recommendation that the president develop an advisory panel to demonstrate the seriousness of this issue to the nation.

 “Past studies have clearly shown that racial and ethnic minority health providers are more likely to serve communities of color,” said Sullivan, who chaired the commission. “Yet, although African Americans, Hispanic Americans and American Indians together account for nearly a quarter of the nation’s population, they constitute less than nine percent of nurses, six percent of physicians, and five percent of dentists. If we are to adequately serve our increasingly diverse population, we must ensure that we have providers who can relate to their patients.”

The project, which is funded by a seed grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, complements the Health Policy Institute’s ongoing work in helping communities to establish short- and long-term goals to eliminate health disparities. This focus on building a more diverse cadre of health providers is, therefore, very important, particularly for urban and low-income communities. “The models that will be developed for implementing the policy recommendations of both reports will also be very important for building the capacity of local communities to address health disparities,” said Dr. Gail C. Christopher, director of the Health Policy Institute.

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