Eliminating Racial And Ethnic Disparities In Women's Health Care Is Focus Of National Symposium

Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher Honored For Commitment To Improving Access To Health Care

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Women who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely than white women to have difficulty communicating with their doctors, to feel they are treated disrespectfully in a health care setting, and to go to the emergency room for health care. They are less likely than white women to have health insurance or to see both a primary care provider and an obstetrician/gynecologist. Women of color also believe that they would receive better health care if they were of a different race or ethnicity. These and the other barriers that prevent women of color from accessing quality health care were reported and discussed at a national symposium here today. The Margaret E. Mahoney Annual Symposium, held by the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health and The Commonwealth Fund, brought together leading experts in health care, health policy, women's health and the health of women of color to explore the impact of race and ethnicity on women's health care and develop ways to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. "Difficulty getting health care, difficulty communicating with a doctor, difficulty paying for health care, and racial or ethnic bias in the health care system all harm women's health," said Martha Romans, Executive Director of the Jacobs Institute for Women's Health. "Working for better women's health care means working to eliminate these disparities." Findings on disparities in health and health care among women from The Commonwealth Fund 2001 Health Care Quality Survey and The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Survey of Women's Health served as the basis for the symposium. The Commonwealth Fund survey findings, presented by Karen Scott Collins, M.D., vice president at the Fund, focus on the quality of women's health care. The survey reveals that African American, Hispanic and Asian American women are more likely than white women to report difficulty accessing and receiving quality health care. Hispanic and Asian American women face more communication barriers than African American and white women - more difficulty understanding doctors, understanding information from doctors' offices and being understood by their doctors. "A good doctor-patient relationship is a crucial element of high-quality health care; we know from previous surveys that women particularly value communication with their physicians," said Collins. "Doctors and other health care practitioners need support to make communication a priority, both during medical training and in practice." The Kaiser Family Foundation survey focused on racial and ethnic disparities in women's health. According to the survey, African American women are more likely than white women to have been diagnosed with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Latinas are less likely the African American or white women to have health insurance, to have visited a doctor in the past year and to have a regular health care provider. African American women and Latinas are both significantly more likely than white women to report needing to see a doctor but not doing it and not being able to see a specialist when it was needed. At the day-long symposium, former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher received the Margaret E. Mahoney Award for Outstanding Service for his commitment to eliminating disparities in health among racial and ethnic groups. As Surgeon General, Satcher's mission was to make public health work for all groups in this nation. "Dr. Satcher used the bully pulpit of the Surgeon General to increase awareness of and direct resources to eliminating the barriers that people of color face in our health care system," said Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund. "Dr. Satcher helped our country take important steps toward a day when race and ethnicity will not be determining factors in a person's health or health care. He established the Committee of the Campaign to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health and ordered a study of racial and ethnic disparities in mental health services. He also spoke out about the importance of making lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of chronic conditions that disproportionately affect people of color, like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease." The award was presented to Dr. Satcher by Charlotte W. Collins, associate research professor at the Center for Health Services Research and Policy at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, who directs the School's Minority Scholars Program. Established in 1994, the Margaret E. Mahoney award bears the name of a leader in the field of health care philanthropy, and recognizes an individual whose singular contributions have fostered the field of health policy and health services and contributed to a better understanding of the complex issues involved. Among the speakers at the Margaret E. Mahoney Annual Symposium on Health Disparities Among Women of Color were: Nina A. Bickell, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Departments of Health Policy and Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Mary Chung, founder, National Asian Women's Health Organization; Lorraine Cole, PhD, President and CEO, National Black Women's Health Project; Karen Scott Collins, MD, MPH, Vice President, The Commonwealth Fund; Harold P. Freeman, MD, Associate Director, National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Director, The NCI Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities; Carol J. Rowland Hogue, PhD, MPH, Terry Professor of Maternal and Child Health and Professor of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University; Elmer E. Huerta, MD, MPH, Founder and Director, Cancer Preventorium, Washington Cancer Institute, Washington Hospital Center; Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, Executive Director, Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology and Chief, Division of Women's Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital; George A. Mensah, MD, Cardiovascular Health Chief, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Yvette Roubideaux, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, College of Public Health and College of Medicine, University of Arizona; and Alina Salganicoff, PhD, Vice President and Director, Women's Health Policy, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The Jacobs Institute of Women's Health is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the knowledge, practice, and understanding of women's health by making America's health care system work better for women. For the next few years, the Jacobs Institute is placing an emphasis on managed care, heart disease and menopause - cutting edge issues that affect women's health and lives. The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that supports independent research on health and social issues and makes grants to improve health care practice and policy. The Fund is dedicated to helping people become more informed about their health care, and improving care for vulnerable populations such as children, elderly people, low-income families, minority Americans, and the uninsured. The Fund's two national program areas are improving health insurance coverage and access to care and improving the quality of health care services. An international program in health policy is designed to stimulate innovative policies and practices in the United States and other industrialized countries. In its own community, New York City, the Fund makes grants to improve health care and enhance public spaces and services.

Publication Details

Publication Date:
April 16, 2002

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