Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The aim of health equity is to ensure that everyone in the US has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible, by minimizing barriers to health care services. It is widely recognized that structural racism contributes to widening health disparities, and this issue became increasingly apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, health equity is an important focus of health workforce planning and research.

One way to reduce structural racism and achieve health equity is to improve racial/ethnic diversity within health professions.1-4 Historically, certain racial and ethnic groups have been underrepresented in the health professions compared to their presence in the general population.4,5 These underrepresented minorities (URMs) have traditionally included Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives. By recruiting more URMs into health professions, the adequacy and distribution of the health workforce is enhanced, quality and access to care is improved, and a culturally competent workforce is more likely to result.6

Studies have shown that URM health professionals are more likely to serve underserved populations, including those living in health professional shortage areas.7-9 As the population of the country becomes more diverse, a more culturally competent workforce will better meet the health needs of the population. Consequently, it is important to not only assess progress in improving diversity within health professions, but also to measure impacts on population health.

  1. Bailey ZD, Krieger N, Agénor M, Graves J, Linos N, Bassett MT. Structural racism and health inequities in the USA: evidence and interventions. Lancet. 2017;389(10077):1453-1463. Published April 6, 2017. Accessed December 15, 2020. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014067361730569X
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Equity Considerations and Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups. Updated July 24, 2020. Accessed September 14, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/racial-ethnic-minorities.html
  1. Williams DR, Cooper LA. Reducing racial inequities in health: using what we already know to take action. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(4):606. doi:10.3390/ijerph16040606.
  2. Sullivan, L.W. Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions, a Report of the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce. Published 2004. Accessed October 27, 2020. doi:10.13016/cwij-acxl.
  3. Center for Health Workforce Studies. A Profile of New York’s Underrepresented Minority Physicians. Published July 2008. Accessed December 14, 2020. https://www.chwsny.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/urmny2008.pdf
  4. LaVeist TA, Pierre G. Integrating the 3Ds–social determinants, health disparities, and health-care workforce diversity. Public Health Rep. 2014;129(2):9-14. doi:10.1177/00333549141291S204.
  5. Xierali IM, Castillo-Page L, Nivet MA. Analyzing physician workforce racial and ethnic composition associations: geographic distribution (Part II). Association of American Medical Colleges. Analysis In Brief. 2014;14(9). Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.aamc.org/system/fi les/reports/1/ aug2014aibpart2.pdf
  6. Xierali IM, Nivet MA. The racial and ethnic composition and distribution of primary care physicians. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2018;29(1):556-570. doi:10.1353/hpu.2018.0036.
  7. Wang S, Martiniano R, Stiegler K.Assessing the Characteristics of New York State Dentists Serving Medicaid Beneficiaries. Rensselaer, NY: Center for Health Workforce Studies, School of Public Health, SUNY Albany; August 2022.

Related Resources:

Exploring the Impact of Household, Personal, and Employment Characteristics on Dentistry’s Income Gap Between Men and Women

Dental Therapists in the United States: Health Equity, Advancing