Access and equity for minorities in healthcare higher education are necessary to provide the industry with qualified, diverse healthcare professionals. Strong access and equity programs in higher education healthcare administration programs provide a pipeline of diverse healthcare leaders.
Recent studies, including one conducted in 2016 by CAHME, show that graduation rates for racial/ethnic minority groups in graduate health administration programs are representative at 39 percent.
However, while access and equity exists in educational institutions there is still a paucity of representation in senior leadership positions. According to US Census data for 2015, racial/ethnic minorities make up more than 38 percent of the U.S. population, but a 2004 study completed by the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce indicated that racial/ethnic minorities represent only 10 percent of clinicians, healthcare faculty, and healthcare administrators.
A 2015 study covering only hospital leadership, conducted by the Institute for Diversity in Health Management together with the Health Research and Educational Trust, indicates progress. Diverse executive leaders are represented at 11 percent and occupy 19 percent of first- and mid-level management positions, but this is not enough.
The lack of representation is not due to a lack of awareness or a devaluing of inclusiveness by healthcare executives.
In a survey of current senior leaders in healthcare conducted by Witt/Kieffer, “two-thirds of respondents said that diversity recruiting allows healthcare organizations to reach their goals, including achieving population health initiatives.
Nearly 7 in 10 agreed that having a diverse leadership team supports successful decision-making and that a diverse workforce enhances equity of care”. However, implementing strong strategies to improve representation are not in place in all environments. Evidence supports that a lack of representation in healthcare is particularly pernicious, exacerbating social iniquities.
This problem is important to address because medically underserved patients that experience stereotype threat and/or implicit bias, or cannot speak with clinicians that have similar backgrounds or speak their language, may experience disparities.
Stereotype threat occurs when a person is “at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one's group” (Steele & Aronson, 1995, p. 797).
Implicit bias refers to the “unconscious or automatic operation of stereotypes” in which the person that expresses the bias does not intend to reinforce prejudice (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995, p. 6).
According to the CDC Health Disparities & Inequalities Report, healthcare disparities are present in minority infant mortality rates, survival rates, disease prevalence, and many other serious patient outcomes. Poor patient outcomes from healthcare disparities cost the U.S. more than $6 billion a year.
Current healthcare leaders at all levels of the organization can have an impact on leadership inclusiveness and health disparities by engaging in at least five best practices. Organizations that implement these best practices see improvements in inclusive leadership and health disparities.
More strategies and details are available in the report commissioned from Witt/Kieffer.
For a treasure trove of publications and information on diversity, equity, and access in healthcare please visit the Sullivan Alliance.
Additional information about reducing health disparities and increasing diverse leadership can be found at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The Realities of Health Disparities also provides a summary and infographic of some of this data.
The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy is dedicated to increasing access and equity in higher education for diverse students. As Dean Jack H. Knott recently announced,
"USC Sol Price School of Public Policy works hard to advance diversity not only among students in higher education, but also in the fields in which we engage. Therefore, I am proud to announce that the Price School has been chosen as a recipient of the prestigious 2016 NASPAA (Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration) Diversity Award, for exemplifying “the highest standards in diversity through outstanding contributions in research, teaching, and service.”
If you’re ready to consider an Executive Master in Health Administration to help you decrease health disparities, take the first step.
Cohen, J. J., Gabriel, B. A., & Terrell, C. (2002). The case for diversity in the healthcare
workforce. Health Affairs, 21(5), 90-102.
Giscombe, C. W. & Hamilton, N. (2013, January 21). ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in
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Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: attitudes, self-esteem, and
stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102(1), 4.
Meyer, P. A., Yoon, P. W., & Kaufmann, R. B. (2013). Introduction: CDC Health Disparities
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Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of
African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 797.
Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce. (2004). Missing persons:
Minorities in the health professions. Kellogg Foundation.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). QuickFacts. Retrieved on September 10, 2016, from
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(2015). 2015 National healthcare quality and disparities report and 5th anniversary update on the national quality strategy.