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Future of Healthcare

Improving Access to Healthcare for Minority Groups

Disparities in healthcare for racial and ethnic minorities is costing many their lives, and we all have the responsibility to support health equity.

A report by the Institute of Medicine revealed vast racial disparities in healthcare services for most major medical conditions, resulting in significantly worse health outcomes and mortality for minorities. Non-white individuals were less likely to have health insurance or a primary care provider, had more difficulties accessing healthcare, and had fewer choices for care.

Racial disparities

Moreover, there are racial differences in access to treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs). Only 1 in 10 of Americans who need addiction treatment are able to access it. Sadly, access to addiction treatment depends much more on racial and socioeconomic factors.

According to a 2016 study from the Surgeon General, all racial groups can equally benefit from treatment for SUDs. However, people in historically marginalized groups face significantly more barriers to accessing treatment, including higher rates of poverty and housing instability, lower rates of health insurance coverage, and often culturally insensitive treatment services.

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Further, authorities often divert marginalized communities to the criminal justice system, rather than treatment. For example, although only 13 percent of the population is Black, this group represents over 50 percent of inmates in jails or prisons. The greatest amount of racial disparity is due to drug-related offenses, despite similar rates of alcohol and drug use among Black and white Americans.

Improving treatment access

A variety of expert sources have provided suggestions to reduce racial and ethnic healthcare disparities. For one, healthcare providers can hire more providers of color, offer a wider array of treatment services incorporating different cultural values, provide anti-racism training for staff, and leverage technology to reach all patients.

Policymakers, bolstered by more support from voters, should increase healthcare and insurance coverage for all peoples of color, including new immigrants. Educators should focus on the training of people of color and integrate cross-cultural education into their curricula.

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