Report urges racial, cultural diversity in medicine

Policy changes should include incentives for delivering high-quality care to minority patients, a new study says.

By Damon Adams — Posted Aug. 9, 2004

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Health policy should encourage greater diversity among health professionals, and cultural competency should be incorporated into medical education, a new report said.

The Commonwealth Fund report, released in July, said minorities are poorly represented among health care professionals. Yet patients treated by doctors of the same racial and ethnic background report greater satisfaction, the report said.

Researchers reviewed studies on racial/ethnic and language concordance and found that the studies documented ongoing racial and ethnic disparities in health care.

"These studies provide rationale for increasing diversity" in health care, said Lisa Cooper, MD, MPH, lead author and associate professor of medicine, epidemiology and health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The report recommends that federal funding be provided to recruit and retain minority students and faculty. It also recommends that Congress set aside funds to research patient-physician relationships with regard to race, ethnicity and language.

Among the other recommendations: health care delivery changes should include incentives to practitioners for delivering high-quality care to minority patients; medical schools and residency programs should make curricular changes to ensure that students and staff get cultural competency training; and practicing doctors seeking certification and recertification should be required to take continuing medical education in cultural competency.

Randall Maxey, MD, PhD, a Los Angeles nephrologist and president of the National Medical Assn., agreed that cultural competency training and a more diverse work force are needed.

"We are very far behind in what needs to be done," he said.

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External links

"Disparities in Patients Experiences, Health Care Processes, and Outcomes: The Role of Patient-Provider Racial, Ethnic, and Language Concordance," Commonwealth Fund report, July, in pdf (link)

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