Healthcare is Becoming More Inclusive — Here’s How

As highlighted in the post by Dr. Jeff Livingston on ‘The Anti-LGBTQ Arkansas Health Law’, healthcare workers cannot pick and choose who to treat. Every professional in medicine should provide their services without judgment, as valuing each person’s life is a key tenet for this vocation. While healthcare has undoubtedly come a long way for many marginalized sectors, the Arkansas Health Law shows that there is still much work to be done for a truly inclusive and accessible healthcare system.

With the country rapidly growing more diverse, it’s important that we not only ensure treatment for minority patients of different genders, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. We should also focus on having a group of diverse healthcare providers who are representative of the US population.

According to a rundown of COVID-19 risks on healthcare workers by KFF, there are about 18.6 million people working in the healthcare industry based on 2019 numbers. Around 60% of these professionals are white, while 40% are people of color (POC). Black and Hispanic healthcare providers comprise a larger share of aides, personal care workers, and direct contact support workers rather than doctors or researchers.

To fix these inequalities, we have to go into system roots. With more awareness, we’re slowly getting better at pursuing inclusivity and diversity. Here are three ways to push progress further:

Improving cultural and racial education


Some insights from Diversity and Discrimination in Healthcare note that healthcare practitioners should learn to be aware of their biases to modify existing perceptions and behaviors. Healthcare providers must be willing to learn and self-reflect in an ongoing manner. Here, diversity education could work.

This is training to recognize their personal and institutional biases, then learning how to employ an attitude of curiosity with how patients’ unique contexts shape their health views or behaviors. Diversity education is more than a handful of classes, as it requires a cultural shift against stereotyping and microaggressions. It would help to introduce healthcare workers to diverse populations early on in their careers, maybe through internships or mentoring programs.

Investing in research diversity

Data gaps in current research indicate many disparities. For instance, findings on skincare issues are often skewed towards treatment of white communities; we commonly see symptoms photographed on white skin. Or, research connected to reproductive health may not consider perspectives from the transgender population. When populations are neglected in studies, this can drive poor health outcomes for entire communities.

In an article on inclusive research for Wheel, Ashwini Zenooz, MD highlighted two ways to diversify research: expanding participant pools for studies and clinical trials, and ensuring equitable funding for minority researchers. We need to recruit and engage with patients who truly represent the general population through strategies like remote trial capabilities, which can expand our reach. Next, we have to make sure that a diverse mix of researchers receive better funding; when subjects and patients encounter professionals who look like them, speak their language, and share their culture, they are more likely to cooperate — contributing to accurate findings.

Integrating community in leadership practices


call to action from the University of Göttingen asked the global scientific community to pay more attention to researchers belonging to disadvantaged social groups in the wake of the pandemic. The crisis, they pointed out, will negatively impact early career researchers — particularly minorities of all genders, women, researchers from the Global South, and persons with disabilities. The university recommended that leadership in workplaces, institutions, and offices should actively strive to improve gender equality measures, targeted funding, and increased state aid.

Indeed, systemic change requires a top-down approach. Hospital leaders should exert effort to learn about the populations they serve and work with, so they can come up with institutionalized solutions and meet specific community needs. Conducting interviews and surveys with their stakeholders can activate real change, like decisions to invest in interpreters, provide Halal dietary options, or change their hiring practices. This commitment within policies and procedures will set the tone for the rest of the organization to follow.

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Editors ChoiceHealthcare is Becoming More Inclusive — Here’s How
Raine Jodsonhttps://medika.life/my-profile-2/?uid=326
Raine Jodson is a healthcare and technology writer who uses her work to help educate individuals. Her goal is to spread awareness on topics people may not know but need to care about. When she isn’t working, she likes to watch Jeopardy with her family.
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