May 22, 2013, 11:00 AM, Posted by Carmen Green
Carmen R. Green, MD, is an alumna of the RWJF Health Policy Fellows program. She is the associate vice president and associate dean for health equity and inclusion at the University of Michigan Health System, and a professor of anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, and health management and policy. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.
More than a decade into the 21st century, Americans still face diminished health and tremendous variations in health care, depending on what they look like, where they come from, where they live, what they earn, and other factors. Significant and persistent variability in clinician decision-making also exists based upon these factors.
The reasons for these inequities lie in part in disparities in the infrastructure for screening, diagnosing, treating and supporting patients leading to unequal treatment.
In an increasingly aging, female, and diversifying society, it is vital to have a diverse workforce to not only help put patients of varying backgrounds at ease but to provide care that is responsive to their needs and to achieve the best health care outcomes. It may be difficult for underrepresented and vulnerable people to trust the health care system if the employees largely come from the same place and have one perspective. Some of those perceptions actually become realities as biases can negatively affect patients that are marginalized and lower on the socioeconomic totem pole.