A survey by the University of Cincinnati shows African-American adults in Greater Cincinnati are more likely than white adults to perceive their race and health insurance negatively impacted their health care treatment.
To talk more about the survey results and general health disparities in the region, representatives of UC and community groups served as guests on WVXU radio’s Cincinnati Edition program. The panel included:
- Greer Glazer, PhD, Dean of UC College of Nursing
- Renee Mahaffey Harris, COO of The Center for Closing the Health Gap
- Tammy Mentzel, Research Associate at UC College of Nursing
- Barb Tobias, MD, Professor of Family and Community Medicine at UC College of Medicine and Medical Director of The Health Collaborative
The survey found that 21 percent of African-American adults in the region think they would have received better medical care if they belonged to a different race or ethnic group, compared with only 5 percent of whites. Among African-American adults in the region, 14 percent felt they had been judged unfairly or treated disrespectfully by a doctor or medical staff member because of their race or ethnicity. This compares with about 1 percent of white adults.
"I don’t think anyone walks into a room and says, 'I’m going to treat this person differently because of how they look,'" says Harris. “But that implicit bias is there that may inform, unconsciously, how they may interact with that individual. Therefore, that trust never occurs and without that trust, that good patient-provider relationship never occurs."
Drs. Glazer and Tobias say the colleges of nursing and medicine are changing the way they admit students, taking a holistic approach that considers life experiences and other personal traits, along with test scores and other traditional factors. This approach helps create a more diverse body of students, which in turn, will diversify the health care workforce, making it more reflective of the community it serves.
The colleges also are incorporating implicit bias training into curriculum. That way, Dr. Glazer says, students can recognize their own biases and prevent them from affecting the care they provide.
"What we’re trying to do with our students is to start very early to say everybody has this, you need to recognize this within yourself … and then, here are some tools that you can have so that you’re able to address this implicit bias, so that when you come into the room and you’re interacting with a patient, you’re able to deal with your emotions prior to that and you’re able to be present – present – for that patient in that space."
Harris says health care providers have a lot of work to do to shore up disparities, but it starts with discussions at the senior level of health care organizations.
"What we’re talking about today isn’t going to end today, but we have to keep talking about it."