Health Inequities Harm Everyone

May 31, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by

Ample scientific and empirical evidence supports increasing diversity in the health care workforce in order to decrease health disparities and advance health equity.

I am a registered nurse and PhD student in Nursing and Health Policy at the University of New Mexico. New Mexico is known for its depth of cultural diversity; however, this state joins the nation in experiencing negligible diversity in its health care workforce. 

I was honored with the opportunity to complete a policy internship focusing on nursing workforce diversity at the Division of Nursing of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Health Professions. From this experience, I gained increased awareness and resources to affect change in nursing and health care workforce diversity in New Mexico.

I am part of a steering committee that has conceptualized and developed the New Mexico Institute for Nursing Diversity, Empowerment, and Health Equity—an affinity group of the New Mexico Nurses Association. Using a ‘social determinants of health’ framework, the New Mexico Institute for Nursing Diversity, Empowerment, and Health Equity works to improve the leadership status of Hispanic and other minority nurses and advance health equity for the citizens of New Mexico. Our goals include expanding nursing’s effective participation in political and public policy arenas, improving the recruitment and retention of a diverse nursing workforce, and enhancing communications and relationships across racial and ethnic lines. We envision providing a center for nursing resources, and informing and illuminating New Mexico’s public policy issues through community participation, research, analysis, information dissemination, and systems transformation. 

Response to the need for diversity requires a broadening of the definition and scale of diversity. Our nation is not only diverse in racial and ethnic contexts. It is a diverse nation culturally and ideologically. Increasing diversity of the health care workforce takes efforts in the areas of data collection and analysis, community engagement and empowerment, and community supports in social, economic, political, environmental, and cultural contexts. 

I am privileged with awareness of the impact health care workforce diversity has on our nation’s health. Awareness without action, however, is futile. I am honored to respond to the need for diversity in New Mexico. I plead with my fellow nurses, my fellow health care workers, our policy leaders, and our communities to join forces in developing a health care workforce that mirrors our communities’ demographics and to lead the way toward advancing our nation’s health. 

Diversity starts with us. Diversity matters. Health inequities harm everyone.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.