By Dr. Taffye Benson Clayton, Vice Provost for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
THE STATISTICS ON minority health are compelling, forcing us to question why such disparities exist. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill we are working not only to discover what would make the healthcare of minority populations more effective but what would make them equitable. This summer we will hold our nineteenth annual Minority Health Conference. As an advocate for evidence-based approaches, I appreciate the stories the numbers can tell us. We can use research to affect a change in policy, and therefore, in our society.
If we examine issues in healthcare through a social justice lens, we can inform policymakers not just where the disparities are, but how to contend with them. Research on bias in the health and mental health systems has had an impact in helping to eradicate bias and the disparities caused by it.
Prompted by a request from Congress, the Institute of Medicine performed an assessment on the differences in the kinds and quality of healthcare based on racial and ethnic categories. Their recommendations included:
• Implementation of patient education
• Collection of data on healthcare access
and utilization by patients’ race,
ethnicity, and socioeconomic status
• Research into sources of racial and ethnic disparities,
barriers to eliminating disparities, and promising
intervention strategies to eliminate disparities
Our latest news headlines regarding health are about our country’s battle with obesity and how to bring down the rate of illness related to it. Access to healthy food and information on nutrition are essential if we’re going to address this issue broadly. Technology has had an impact on how people get information—from television to text message. We can see changes being made that have even affected the fast-food industry.
We should be steadfast in our efforts to keep minority health issues at the forefront of public information in order to achieve a goal of equity for health and healthcare.