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Too Few Minorities in the U.S. Health Care Workforce: Report

WEDNESDAY, March 31, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are significantly under-represented in the health professions in the United States, with little indication that diversity will improve, according to a new study.

In 2019, blacks made up about 12.1% of the US workforce, but their representation in 10 health professions studied ranged from 3.3% for physiotherapists to 11.4% for respiratory therapists.

“Our results suggest that blacks, Latin Americans and other people of color have been left behind when it comes to health professions,” said lead author Edward Salsberg, co-director of the Health Workforce Diversity project. Tracker at the George Washington University’s Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity in Washington, DC He spoke in an academic press release.

In all 10 professions – which included doctors, nurses and pharmacists – the Black Diversity Index was 0.54. A diversity index of 1 means that the diversity of the overall workforce and that of the profession are equal.


In five of the ten health professions, the representation of black workers among new graduates was lower than that in practice, suggesting that their representation in these occupations may be even lower in the future.

In 2019, Hispanics made up 18.2% of the US workforce, but their representation in health professions ranged from 3.4% for physiotherapists to 10.8% for respiratory therapists, an index of diversity of 0.34.

Native Americans made up 0.6% of the overall U.S. workforce in 2019, but their representation among the 10 occupations ranged from a low of zero to a high of 0.9%, on a diversity index. of 0.54.

The results were published online March 31 in the journal JAMA network open.

The researchers said their findings are important because minority health professionals are essential in efforts to reduce the disproportionate burden of disease, including COVID-19, among communities of color.

“By building a more diverse healthcare workforce, the United States would improve access and improve outcomes in underserved communities and for high need populations,” study co-author Toyese Oyeyemi said in the communicated.


Co-author Maria Portela said the findings show that the roles of health workers who require postgraduate training suffer from a significant under-representation of minorities that lags behind their representation in the general population.

“This trend is unlikely to change if we do not devote the necessary attention and resources to address it,” she said.

Oyeyemi and Portela are co-directors of the Diversity Tracker project at the Mullan Institute.

More information

The RAND Corporation has more on diversity in the US healthcare system.

SOURCE: George Washington University, press release, March 31, 2021


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