Greater attention towards genetics as a contributor to group health differences may lead to inappropriate use of race/ethnicity and gender as genetic heuristics and exacerbate health disparities. As part of a web-based survey, 1,035 family physicians (FPs) rated the contribution of genetics and environment to racial/ethnic and gender differences in health outcomes, and the importance of race/ethnicity and gender in their clinical decision-making. FPs attributed racial/ethnic and gender differences in health outcomes equally to environment and genetics. These beliefs were not associated with rated importance of race/ethnicity or gender in clinical decision-making. FPs appreciate the complexity of genetic and environmental influences on health differences by race/ethnicity and gender.
Genetics; Race; Ethnicity; Gender; Clinical practice; Health disparities
Patients belonging to racial and ethnic minority populations continue to receive lesser-quality healthcare relative to other patients, even when controlling for relevant demographic variables. Such disparities represent a significant challenge for physicians who are ethically committed to serving all patients equally, irrespective of personal characteristics. Accordingly, this report explores the ethical obligations of individual physicians and the medical profession as they pertain to racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare. To address these disparities, the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs recommends that physicians customize the provision of medial care to meet the needs and preferences of individual patients. Moreover, physicians must learn to recognize racial and ethnic healthcare disparities and critically examine their own practices to ensure that inappropriate considerations do not affect clinical judgment. Physicians can also work to eliminate racial and ethnic healthcare disparities by encouraging diversity within the profession, continuing to investigate healthcare disparities, and supporting the development of appropriate quality measures.
Disparities in health outcomes of members of different ancestral or ethnic groups can be observed in both developed and developing countries and continue to be a global concern. Genomic medicine can help toward closing this gap by expanding the knowledge on novel alleles related to disease risk and drug response, their frequencies, and their relation with disease and drug-response phenotypes, in as many countries and ethnic groups as possible. Without such knowledge, genomic medicine cannot deliver upon its promise of contributing to health for all. However, the use of ancestry or ethnicity-related genetic information as a selection criterion for assigning varying levels of access to health care is condemnable. Translational genomic medicine will allow for individualized clinical decision making - doing away with the use of race, ethnicity or ancestry as a proxy.
Using data from the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 2000 Census, we explored whether race/ethnic disparities in healthcare use were associated with residential segregation. We used five measures of healthcare use: office based physician visits, outpatient department physician visits, visits to nurses and physician’s assistants, visits to other health professionals, and having a usual source of care (USC). For each individual, we controlled for age, gender, marital status, insurance status, income, educational attainment, employment status, region, and health status. We used the racial-ethnic composition of the zip code to control for residential segregation. Our findings suggest that disparities in healthcare utilization are related to both individuals’ racial and ethnic identity and the racial and ethnic composition of their communities. Therefore, efforts to improve access to health care services and to eliminate healthcare disparities for African Americans and Hispanics should not only focus on individual-level factors but also include community-level factors.
healthcare disparities; segregation; physician services; nurse practitioner services; physician’s assistant services; minority health
Although social stratification persists in the US, differentially influencing the well-being of ethnically defined groups, ethnicity concepts and their implications for health disparities remain under-examined. Ethnicity is a complex social construct that influences personal identity and group social relations. Ethnic identity, ethnic classification systems, the groupings that compose each system and the implications of assignment to one or another ethnic category are place-, time- and context-specific. In the US, racial stratification uniquely shapes expressions of and understandings about ethnicity. Ethnicity is typically invoked via the term, ‘race/ethnicity’; however, it is unclear whether this heralds a shift away from racialization or merely extends flawed racial taxonomies to populations whose cultural and phenotypic diversity challenge traditional racial classification. We propose that ethnicity be conceptualized as a two-dimensional, context-specific, social construct with an attributional dimension that describes group characteristics (e.g., culture, nativity) and a relational dimension that indexes a group’s location within a social hierarchy (e.g., minority vs. majority status). This new conceptualization extends prior definitions in ways that facilitate research on ethnicization, social stratification and health inequities. While federal ethnic and racial categories are useful for administrative purposes such as monitoring the inclusion of minorities in research, and traditional ethnicity concepts (e.g., culture) are useful for developing culturally appropriate interventions, our relational dimension of ethnicity is useful for studying the relationships between societal factors and health inequities. We offer a new conceptualization of ethnicity and outline next steps for employing socially meaningful measures of ethnicity in empirical research. Ethnicity is both increasingly complex and increasingly central to social life; therefore, improving its conceptualization and measurement is crucial for advancing research on ethnic health inequities.
USA; ethnic groups; ethnicity; health disparities; race relations; social epidemiology; social stratification; concepts
The 2001 Institute of Medicine report entitled Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care pointed out extensive healthcare disparities in the United States even when controlling for disease severity, socioeconomic status, education, and access. The literature identifies several groups of Americans who receive disparate healthcare: ethnic minorities, women, children, the elderly, the handicapped, the poor, prisoners, lesbians, gays, and the transgender population. Disparate healthcare represents an enormous current challenge with substantial moral, ethical, political, public health, public policy, and economic implications, all of which are likely to worsen over the next several decades without immediate and comprehensive action. A review of recent literature reveals over 100 general and specific suggestions and solutions to eliminate healthcare disparities. While healthcare disparities have roots in multiple sources, racial stereotypes and biases remain a major contributing factor and are prototypical of biases based on age, physical handicap, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation or other differences. Given that such disparities have a strong basis in racial biases, and that the principles of racism are similar to those of other “isms”, we summarize the current state of healthcare disparities, the goals of their eradication, and the various potential solutions from a conceptual model of racism affecting patients (internalized racism), caregivers (personally mediated racism), and society (institutionalized racism).
Several aspects of social psychological science shed light on how unexamined racial/ethnic biases contribute to healthcare disparities.
Biases are complex but systematic, differing by racial/ ethnic group and not limited to love–hate polarities. Group images on the universal social cognitive dimensions of competence and warmth determine the content of each group’s overall stereotype, distinct emotional prejudices (pity, envy, disgust, pride), and discriminatory tendencies. These biases are often unconscious and occur despite the best intentions.
Such ambivalent and automatic biases can influence medical decisions and interactions, systematically producing discrimination in health care and ultimately disparities in health. Understanding how these processes may contribute to bias in health care can help guide interventions to address racial and ethnic disparities in health.
Ethnicity/race is a much-studied variable in epidemiology. There has been little consensus about what self-reported ethnicity/race represents, but it is a measure of some combination of genetic, socioeconomic, and cultural factors. The present article will attempt to: 1.) Elucidate the limitations of contemporary discourse on ethnicity/race that emphasizes the genetic and socioeconomic dimensions as competing explanatory frameworks; 2.) Demonstrate how considerable attention to the cultural dimension facilitates understanding of race differences in health-related outcomes; and 3.) Discuss interpretations of disparities in health status of African Americans versus European Americans from an ethical perspective. A major challenge to the discourse on ethnicity/race and health being limited to socioeconomic and genetic considerations is the lack of attention to the third alternative of a cultural perspective. The combined cultural ideologies of individualism and racism undermine the utility of epidemiologic research in health promotion and disease prevention campaigns aimed at reducing the racial gaps in health status. An ethical analysis supplements the cultural perspective. Ethics converge with culture on the notion of values influencing the study of ethnicity/race in epidemiology. A cultural approach to the use of ethnicity/race in epidemiologic research addresses methodological limitations, public health traditions, and ethical imperatives.
In order to eliminate health disparities in the United States, more efforts are needed to address the breadth of social issues directly contributing to the healthy divide observed across racial and ethnic groups. Socioeconomic status, education, and the environment are intimately linked to health outcomes. However, with the tremendous advances in technology and increased investigation into human genetic variation, genomics is poised to play a valuable role in bolstering efforts to find new treatments and preventions for chronic conditions and diseases that disparately affect certain ethnic groups. Promising studies focused on understanding the genetic underpinnings of diseases such as prostate cancer or beta-blocker treatments for heart failure are illustrative of the positive contribution that genomics can have on improving minority health.
This paper provides an overview of the contribution of sociologists to the study of racial and ethnic inequalities in health in the U.S. It argues that sociologists have made four principal contributions. First, they have challenged and problematized the biological understanding of race. Second, they have emphasized the primacy of social structure and context as determinants of racial differences in disease. Third, they have contributed to our understanding of the multiple ways in which racism affects health. Finally, sociologists have enhanced our understanding of the ways in which migration history and status can affect health. Sociological insights on racial disparities in health have important implications for the development of effective approaches to improve health and reduce health inequities.
Little is known about why minorities have a lower propensity to use private doctors' offices for their usual source of care than non-Hispanic whites. This study used the 2001 Commonwealth Fund's Health Care Quality Survey of adults to determine if this disparity is due to racial and ethnic differences in attitudes about health and healthcare, and perceptions of racial and ethnic discrimination in healthcare. We found that race and ethnic disparities at the site of the usual source of care persisted even after controlling for individuals' attitudes about health and healthcare, and their perceptions about racial and ethnic discrimination in healthcare. We found that the impact of attitudes and perceptions did vary by subgroups. These factors were important for Asians' site of usual source of care but had little impact on African Americans' site of usual of care. However, despite their differential impact by race and ethnicity, attitudes and perceptions were not the source of observed disparities in site of care. Therefore, in addition to focusing on provider-patient relationships, perhaps future research and policymakers should focus on system-level factors to explain and increase minority use of care in private physicians' offices.
Emerging methods in the measurement of race and ethnicity have important implications for the field of public health. Traditionally, information on race and/or ethnicity has been integral to our understanding of the health issues affecting the U.S. population. We review some of the complexities created by new classification approaches made possible by the inclusion of multiple-race assessment in the U.S. Census and large health surveys. We discuss the importance of these classification decisions in understanding racial/ethnic health and health care access disparities. The trend toward increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the United States will put further pressure on the public health industry to develop consistent and useful approaches to racial/ethnic classifications.
classification bias; public health statistics; cultural competence
To systematically review the reporting of race/ethnicity in SART Clinic Outcome Reporting System (CORS) publications.
Systematic review using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) methodology of literature published in PUBMED on race/ethnicity that includes data from SART CORS.
Systematic review was performed on behalf of the ASRM Health Disparities Special Interest Group.
IVF cycles reported to SART
Main Outcome Measure
Any outcomes reported in SART CORS
Seven publications were identified that assessed racial/ethnic disparities in IVF outcomes using SART data. All reported a racial/ethnic disparity. However, over 35% of cycles were excluded from analysis because of missing race/ethnicity data.
Review of current publications of SART data suggests significant racial/ethnic disparities in IVF outcomes. However, the potential for selection bias limits confidence in these findings given that fewer than 65% of SART reported cycles include race/ethnicity. Our understanding of how race/ethnicity influences ART outcome could be greatly improved if information on race/ethnicity was available for all reported cycles.
race; ethnicity; disparity; in-vitro fertilization; SART
Differences in health behaviors may be important contributors to racial/ethnic disparities in the health status of adults. Studies to date have not compared whether there are health behavior differences in exercise and dietary behaviors among middle-age and older adults in the four largest racial/ethnic categories.
To investigate racial/ethnic differences in exercise and dietary behaviors of middle-aged and older adults.
We used data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine interactions between age and race/ethnicity in predicting two categories of health behaviors. Analyses were conducted adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, health insurance status, and healthcare utilization.
A population-based sample of 33,189 California adults 45 years old and older: 26,522 non-Hispanic whites, 1,686 African American/blacks, 2,565 Asian/Pacific Islanders (1,741 English-proficient; 824 limited English-proficient), and 2,416 Latinos (1,538 English-proficient; 878 limited English-proficient).
Self-report leisure-time physical activity (moderate and vigorous) and daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Racial/ethnic minorities generally engaged in less healthy exercise and dietary behaviors than whites, with differences more pronounced in middle adulthood. The disparities were the greatest among English-proficient minorities. Specifically, among middle-aged respondents, all racial/ethnic minorities engaged in less vigorous physical activity than whites (ORs range = 0.28 to 0.73; 95% CI range = 0.16-1.00). Additionally, middle-aged, English-proficient minorities engaged in less moderate physical activity compared to whites (ORs range =0.57 to 0.67; 95% CI range = 0.45-0.79). Furthermore, middle-aged, English-proficient Latinos had a poorer diet than whites (OR = 0.54; 0.39-0.75). Few significant racial/ethnic differences emerged in the exercise and dietary behaviors of older adults.
Racial/ethnic disparities in exercise and dietary behaviors are most notable among middle-aged, acculturated minorities. Results highlight the need to promote positive exercise and dietary behaviors during critical preventive ages, when racial/ethnic disparities are large and the potential to prevent chronic disease is great.
diet; exercise; older adults; racial and ethnic disparities; California Health Interview Survey
We conducted a review to examine current literature on the effects of interpersonal and institutional racism and discrimination occurring within health care settings on the health care received by racial/ethnic minority patients.
We searched the PsychNet, PubMed, and Scopus databases for articles on US populations published between January 1, 2008 and November 1, 2011. We used various combinations of the following search terms: discrimination, perceived discrimination, race, ethnicity, racism, institutional racism, stereotype, prejudice or bias, and health or health care. Fifty-eight articles were reviewed.
Patient perception of discriminatory treatment and implicit provider biases were the most frequently examined topics in health care settings. Few studies examined the overall prevalence of racial/ethnic discrimination and none examined temporal trends. In general, measures used were insufficient for examining the impact of interpersonal discrimination or institutional racism within health care settings on racial/ethnic disparities in health care.
Better instrumentation, innovative methodology, and strategies are needed for identifying and tracking racial/ethnic discrimination in health care settings.
The medical profession will face many challenges in the new millennium. As medicine looks forward to advances in molecular genetics and the prospect of unprecedented understanding of the causes and cures of human disease, clinicians, scientists and bioethicists may benefit from reflection upon the origins of the medical ethos and its relevance to postmodern medicine. Past distortions of the medical ethos, such as Nazism and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, as well as more recent experience with the ethical challenges of employer-based market driven managed care, provide important lessons as medicine contemplates the future. Racial and ethnic disparities in health status and access to care serve as a reminders that the racial doctrines that fostered the horrors of the Holocaust and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study have not been completely removed from contemporary thinking. Inequalities in health status based on race and ethnicity, as well as socioeconomic status, attest to the inescapable reality of racism in America. When viewed against a background of historical distortions and disregard for the traditional tenets of the medical ethos, persistent racial and ethnic disparities and health and the prospect of genetic engineering raise the specter of discrimination because of genotype, a postmodern version of "racist medicine" or of a "new eugenics." There is a need to balance medicine's devotion to the wellbeing of the patient and the primacy of the patient-physician relationship against with the need to meet the health care needs of society. The challenge facing the medical profession in the new millennium is to establish an equilibrium between the responsibility to assure quality health care for the individual patient while affecting societal changes to achieve "health for all."
The medical profession will face many challenges in the new millenium. As medicine looks forward to advances in molecular genetics and the prospect of unprecedented understanding of the causes and cures of human disease, clinicians, scientists, and bioethicists may benefit from reflection on the origins of the medical ethos and its relevance to postmodern medicine. Past distortions of the medical ethos, such as Nazism and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, as well as more recent experience with the ethical challenges of employer-based, market-driven managed care, provide important lessons as medicine contemplates the future. Racial and ethnic disparities in health status and access to care serve as reminders that the racial doctrines that fostered the horrors of the Holocaust and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study have not been removed completely from contemporary thinking. Inequalities in health status based on race and ethnicity, as well as socioeconomic status, attest to the inescapable reality of racism in America. When viewed against a background of historical distortions and disregard for the traditional tenets of the medical ethos, persistent racial and ethnic disparities in health and the prospect of genetic engineering raise the specter of discrimination because of genotype, a postmodern version of “racist medicine” or of a “new eugenics”. There is a need to balance medicine’s devotion to the well-being of the patient and the primacy of the patient-physician relationship against the need to meet the health care needs of society. The challenge facing the medical profession in the new millennium is to establish an equilibrium between the responsibility to ensure quality health care for the individual patient while effecting societal changes to achieve “health for all”.
Access to Care; Medical Ethos; Racism; Social Responsibility; Tuskegee
Along with the growing heterogeneity of the American population, ethnic/racial disparity is becoming a clear health issue in the United States. The awareness of ethnic/racial disparities has been growing because of considerable data gathered from recent clinical and epidemiological studies. These studies have highlighted the importance of addressing these differences in the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases potentially according to race. It is becoming particularly clear that there is a 2- to 3-fold racial difference in certain cardiovascular diseases (eg, preeclampsia) associated with dysfunctional nitric oxide–mediated vasodilation. In this review, the authors summarize the current literature on racial disparities in nitric oxide–mediated vasodilation in relation to cardiovascular health with an emphasis on vascular nitric oxide bioavailability as a balance between production via endothelial nitric oxide synthase and degradation through reactive oxygen species. The major hypotheses postulated on the biological basis of these differences are also highlighted.
Race; nitric oxide; endothelial nitric oxide synthase
Race and ethnicity are commonly used predictor variables in medical and public health research. Including these variables has helped researchers to describe the etiology of certain disease states. Including race and ethnicity in research has been hypothesis generating in terms of the relationship between genetic and environmental factors in the development of disease. Eliminating health disparities among different racial and ethnic groups has become a national priority. However, incorporating race and ethnicity into health research is complex because these variables are difficult to define and individuals often identify with more than one race or ethnicity. As a “minority-majority”, multiethnic, multiracial state, Hawai‘i faces unique challenges in incorporating race and ethnicity into research. As the demographics of the United States continue to evolve, many of the challenges faced in Hawai‘i will apply to the United States as a whole.
African Americans and other minority populations have not benefited to the same degree as the majority of Americans from the advances in health care in our country. The vestiges of racism have resulted in inequities which exist in training, medical practice, medical decision making, the work environment and biomedical research. Recommendations are made to eliminate racial and ethnic bias in healthcare through monitoring and increasing the number and the distribution of medical trainees proportionate to the diversity of the U.S. population; through improvements in the medical school curriculum to include the impact of race and ethnicity on healthcare outcomes as well as the effect of physicians' attitudes on health; through the inclusion of an adequate number, mix and distribution of health care professionals relative to the diversity of the participants in health plans with due process for patients and physicians; and through increased participation in peer review research funding, training and as subjects in biomedical research directed to improve the quality of healthcare for diverse populations.
To review methods of measuring racial/ethnic health care disparities.
Identification and tracking of racial/ethnic disparities in health care will be advanced by application of a consistent definition and reliable empirical methods. We have proposed a definition of racial/ethnic health care disparities based in the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Unequal Treatment report, which defines disparities as all differences except those due to clinical need and preferences. After briefly summarizing the strengths and critiques of this definition, we review methods that have been used to implement it. We discuss practical issues that arise during implementation and expand these methods to identify sources of disparities. We also situate the focus on methods to measure racial/ethnic health care disparities (an endeavor predominant in the United States) within a larger international literature in health outcomes and health care inequality.
We compare different methods of implementing the IOM definition on measurement of disparities in any use of mental health care and mental health care expenditures using the 2004–2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.
Disparities analysts should be aware of multiple methods available to measure disparities and their differing assumptions. We prefer a method concordant with the IOM definition.
This paper applies social cognition research to understanding and ameliorating the provider contribution to racial/ethnic disparities in health care. We discuss how fundamental cognitive mechanisms such as automatic, unconscious processes (e.g., stereotyping) can help explain provider bias. Even well-intentioned providers who are motivated to be nonprejudiced may stereotype racial/ethnic minority members, particularly under conditions of that diminish cognitive capacity. These conditions—time pressure, fatigue, and information overload—are frequently found in health care settings. We conclude with implications of the social-cognitive perspective for developing interventions to reduce provider bias.
provider behavior; disparities; race; ethnicity; social cognition
Elective knee and hip joint replacements are cost-effective treatment options in the management of end-stage knee and hip osteoarthritis. Yet there are marked racial disparities in the utilization of this treatment even though the prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis does not vary greatly by race or ethnicity. This article briefly reviews the rationale for understanding this disparity, the evidence-base that supports the existence of racial or ethnic disparity as well as some known potential explanations. Also, briefly summarized here are the most recent original research articles that focus on race and ethnicity and total joint replacement in the management of chronic knee or hip pain and osteoarthritis. The article concludes with a call for more research, examining patient, provider and system-level factors that underlie this disparity and the design of evidence-based, targeted interventions to eliminate or reduce any inequities.
joint replacement; variation; race; osteoarthritis; utilization
Studies documenting racial/ethnic disparities in health care frequently implicate physicians’ unconscious biases. No study to date has measured physicians’ unconscious racial bias to test whether this predicts physicians’ clinical decisions.
To test whether physicians show implicit race bias and whether the magnitude of such bias predicts thrombolysis recommendations for black and white patients with acute coronary syndromes.
Design, Setting, and Participants
An internet-based tool comprising a clinical vignette of a patient presenting to the emergency department with an acute coronary syndrome, followed by a questionnaire and three Implicit Association Tests (IATs). Study invitations were e-mailed to all internal medicine and emergency medicine residents at four academic medical centers in Atlanta and Boston; 287 completed the study, met inclusion criteria, and were randomized to either a black or white vignette patient.
Main Outcome Measures
IAT scores (normal continuous variable) measuring physicians’ implicit race preference and perceptions of cooperativeness. Physicians’ attribution of symptoms to coronary artery disease for vignette patients with randomly assigned race, and their decisions about thrombolysis. Assessment of physicians’ explicit racial biases by questionnaire.
Physicians reported no explicit preference for white versus black patients or differences in perceived cooperativeness. In contrast, IATs revealed implicit preference favoring white Americans (mean IAT score = 0.36, P < .001, one-sample t test) and implicit stereotypes of black Americans as less cooperative with medical procedures (mean IAT score 0.22, P < .001), and less cooperative generally (mean IAT score 0.30, P < .001). As physicians’ prowhite implicit bias increased, so did their likelihood of treating white patients and not treating black patients with thrombolysis (P = .009).
This study represents the first evidence of unconscious (implicit) race bias among physicians, its dissociation from conscious (explicit) bias, and its predictive validity. Results suggest that physicians’ unconscious biases may contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in use of medical procedures such as thrombolysis for myocardial infarction.
unconscious bias; thrombolysis; race; clinical decisions; disparities
Knowledge about the meanings and consequences of behaviors associated with drug use among diverse populations is essential for developing effective public health and clinical strategies. In this study we identify racial/ethnic variations in patterns of drug use, Addiction Severity Index (ASI) scores, response to intervention, concordance between self-report of drug use and biochemical confirmation, and treatment system contacts in a sample of 1175 out-of-treatment cocaine and heroin users drawn from a trial of brief motivation in the outpatient clinics of an inner-city academic hospital. Key differences were identified in drug of choice, in all of the ASI domains except medical, in validity of self-report of use, and in rate of treatment contact. Differences related to race and ethnicity should be evaluated to determine needs for a variety of substance abuse treatment modalities, assure timely access to culturally competent care, and develop policies that are tailored to real conditions.
cocaine; heroin; opiates; racial/ethnic disparities