Racial Inequalities in Health Care: Are the Doctors to Blame?

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Racial and ethnic minorities receive inferior health care as compared to white Americans, even when factors like income and insurance are controlled for, according to a new study.

While the gaps in health indicators among racial groups has been well-known, this new study points to actual biases inside doctor's offices. As one member of the study's panel points out, "It [the discrepancy in care] cuts across all conditions of health and across the entire country, and we think this is a very serious moral issue."

This hour, we ask why racial and ethnic minorities suffer from poorer health than Caucasian Americans. Minority women are far less likely to receive prenatal care during the first three months of pregnancy. Blacks are 34 times more likely to contract syphilis than whites. As death rates from breast cancer have dropped about 19% among white women since 1990, other racial groups have seen only minimal drops.

So what is to blame? Are public health initiatives not culturally sensitive enough for the message to get through to minority groups? Are doctors not delivering the same quality of care to all their patients? How much of a role do socioeconomic issues play?


Dr. Joe Betancourt, member of the Institute of Medicine Study team that documented the racial gap in health care

physician with the Multicultural Affairs Office at Massachusetts General Hospital

Dr. Karen Scott Collins, Vice President of the Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit health care think tank

This program aired on March 28, 2002.


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