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Diversity in Healthcare

Diversity in Healthcare

Dan Woog, Monster Contributing Writer

While African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and American Indians together represent more than one-fourth of the US population, they comprise less than 9 percent of nurses, 6 percent of physicians and 5 percent of dentists. Although more than 16,000 new students entered medical school in 2003, only 2,179 were African American, Hispanic/Latino or American Indian. Meanwhile, by the middle of this century, the US population could be more than 50 percent nonwhite.

These statistics, from a Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce report scheduled to be released in September 2004, point to a severe reality: As declining numbers of African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and American Indians become doctors, nurses and dentists, the quality and availability of healthcare services for minorities suffer.

According to the Sullivan Commission, led by Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, minority groups receive poorer quality healthcare and experience higher mortality rates from heart disease, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, mental health and other illnesses. Minority children are more likely to die from leukemia than white children.

Underrepresentation

A 2003 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey shows that Hispanics comprise only 4.4 percent of all medical records and health information technicians, 2.8 percent of pharmacists and 1.3 percent of emergency medical technicians and paramedics — this in a job category that employs 6.6 million people in the United States.

The survey also states that African Americans rank low in many positions, including physical therapists (2.6 percent), opticians (1.3 percent) and dental hygienists (less than 1 percent).

Asians, who make up 4.2 percent of the US population, are represented at that rate or higher in most healthcare segments — particularly physicians and surgeons (16.1 percent), and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians (12.3 percent). However, they are underrepresented as licensed practical and vocational nurses (3.6 percent), dental hygienists (1.4 percent) and dispensing opticians (1.3 percent).

Administration is another area where minorities are scarce. Ten years ago, minorities made up 28 percent of the hospital workforce, says Rupert Evans, president and CEO of the Institute for Diversity in Healthcare Management. However, fewer than 2 percent of healthcare executives were members of any minority group. Less than 1 percent of CEOs were women, and most of them were nuns working in church-affiliated hospitals.


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