Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Disparities in Healthcare

In spite of significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of most chronic diseases, there is evidence that racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive lower quality of care than nonminorities and that, patients of minority ethnicity experience greater morbidity and mortality from various chronic diseases than nonminorities. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on unequal treatment concluded “racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare exist and, because they are associated with worse outcomes in many cases, are unacceptable.” 1 The IOM report defined disparities in health care as “racial or ethnic differences in the quality of health care that are not due to access-related factors or clinical needs, preferences, and appropriateness of intervention.” 1 Since the publication of the IOM report there has been renewed interest in understanding the sources of disparities, identifying contributing factors, and designing and evaluating effective interventions to reduce or eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care.

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