Addressing Health Care Disparities

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<p>Two new Commonwealth Fund reports offer different perspectives on a central topic in American health care: the persistence of racial and ethnic disparities in treatment.<br> <br> <UL><LI><a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=18022&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecmwf%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D289279%26%23doc289279">Eliminating Disparities in Treatment and the Struggle to End Segregation,</a> by Temple University's David Barton Smith, Ph.D., makes the case for transforming health care reform into a civil rights issue. Current efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care treatment, Smith says, fail to address the effect of segregation on disparities. By reviewing the history of civil rights era efforts to integrate U.S. health care, he offers lessons for current disparity-reduction efforts. According to the author, policymakers need to make the reduction of health care segregation a measurable goal, reinvigorate regional planning, and take a more critical view of the impact of "consumer-driven" choice in the organization of health care. <br> <br><LI><a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=18021&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecmwf%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D289303%26%23doc289303">Equity Measures and Systems Reform as Tools for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care,</a> by Sidney D. Watson, J.D., of the Saint Louis University School of Law, calls for a "systems reform" approach to reducing treatment disparities that includes the collection and reporting of performance data by patient race and ethnicity, which neither government agencies nor private accreditation bodies currently require. By failing to track performance data by race and ethnicity, Watson says, quality improvement initiatives not only miss inequities in treatment but likely overlook promising techniques for reaching particular patient populations. The report provides a template for developing new administrative policies that would promote adoption of equity measures in federally mandated Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement initiatives. </UL></p>