How Will the Affordable Care Act Help Diversify the Health Care Workforce?

Increasing the diversity of the health care workforce has been a critical part of the nation’s strategy to improve health and health care for more than a decade. Yet progress has been limited.

Relative to the U.S. population, Blacks and Hispanics are still significantly underrepresented within the ranks of physicians, nurses and dentists. Less than 5 percent of physicians or dentists are Black or Hispanic. Only 5.4 percent of nurses are Black; by comparison, 83.2 percent are White.

Physicians and nurses are more likely to serve their own communities, making it likely that creating a more diverse medical workforce will increase access to quality care across the nation, especially among certain racial and ethnic populations.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes critical funding for new as well as existing efforts to diversify the nation s health care workforce through academic programs, mentoring and employment opportunities.

This Health Policy Snapshot, published online in December 2011, examines the ways in which the ACA is addressing the push towards greater diversity in the health care workforce.

Read more from RWJF's Health Policy Snapshot series.

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Less than 5% of physicians or dentists are black or Hispanic; only 5.4% of nurses are black