A person's poor health can often be the result of social, economic, and environmental factors. Many racial and ethnic groups bear an unequal burden of disease, disability and death. Racism, poverty, unequal access to good healthcare, and safe neighborhoods all contribute to disparities. Research shows that in Massachusetts Asian, Black, Latino, Native Americans, and new immigrant groups are less healthy than whites.
In Massachusetts, minorities in the health professions are smaller in numbers compared to the size of their population. Research shows that early detection and treatment by providers can be influenced by a patient's race, ethnicity, or language. A patient feels welcome when they feel those caring for them understand their culture and beliefs. Treatment is more likely to be successful when healthcare providers share similar racial, ethnic and language backgrounds with their patients.
Health Disparities Reduction Grants Program
In 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) identified key areas that target gaps in health status and outcomes for racial and ethnic, and linguistic groups. The areas are: workforce development and social determinants. In 2011, 21 grants address access, literacy, community-based capacity and workforce recruitment and retention. The twenty-one (21) grantees include health centers, hospitals, community organizations, neighborhood groups, academic settings, and boards of health statewide. In early 2012, a Health Disparities Reduction Program report will be issued. The report will provide an overview of the initial three years of program funding, including challenges, successes and learning
The learning from twenty-one grants will help agencies to secure additional funds from different sources. The learning will also be used to inform future program models and policies.
The purpose of the grants is to:
- Support efforts at hospitals and health centers to collect race, ethnicity, and primary language data; analyze whether patients are receiving equal care; and develop solutions when needed.
- Increase opportunities for minority students in the health professions through education, mentoring, internships or pipeline programs.
- Support efforts at hospitals, health centers, and neighborhood workforce agencies to recruit, keep, and promote employees of color.
- Support coalition health efforts in communities affected by racial and ethnic health disparities.
- Promote health literacy for diverse racial, ethnic and linguistic populations.