Associated Press, Feb 5, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) – America’s fast-growing minority population isn’t fully represented in the health care professions, according to a new study that urges government and educators to encourage more blacks, Latinos and others to enter medical fields.

“Racial and ethnic minority clinicians are significantly more likely than their white peers to serve minority and medically underserved communities,”the prestigious Institute of Medicine said in a study released Thursday.

The institute found that while Latinos constitute 12 percent of the population, they make up only 2 percent of registered nurses, 3.4 percent of psychologists and 3.5 percent of physicians.

And while one in eight Americans is black, fewer than one in 20 physicians or dentists is black, according to the study, “In the Nation’s Compelling

Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce.”

In particular, the report said, language barriers for Latinos and others can limit their access to mental health care as well as medical and dental attention.

The committee defined underrepresented minorities as blacks, Latinos and

Native Americans. While Asians and Pacific Islanders make up 19.8 percent

of medical school graduates – more than their share of the population – the report noted that in some communities Asians can still have problems getting mental health care because of language difficulties.

Organizations representing the health professions have made some effort to recruit additional minorities, but with limited success, the report added.

In an effort to remedy the situation the report made a series of recommendations, including:

– Health education institutions should include race, ethnicity and language skills in admissions decisions, including having minorities represented on admissions committees.

– Congress should increase funding for programs to increase diversity in the health care work force.

– State and local agencies and private organizations should support swkr diversity at health education institutions through such programs as tuition reimbursement, loan repayment and loan forgiveness.

– Health profession accreditation groups should encourage schools to recruit minorities, stress the value of minorities in health care and include minorities on their boards.

The Institute of Medicine is a component of the National Academy of Sciences, an independent organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters.


Institute of Medicine: