Racial and Ethnic Disparities In Women's Health and Wellness

A brief provided by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Approximately 61 million females in the United States (38% of U.S. females) are members of a racial or ethnic minority group, or both.  

Projections suggest that people of color will represent most of the U.S. population by 2050, and yet significant racial and ethnic disparities persist in women’s health and health care. Although socioeconomic status accounts for some of these disparities, factors at the patient, practitioner, and health care system levels contribute to existing and evolving disparities in women’s health outcomes

Many health disparities are directly related to inequities in income, housing, education, and job opportunities. Although many disparities diminish after taking these factors into account, some remain because of factors at the patient, health care system, and practitioner levels 

The United States is the only developed country that does not consider health care a right of citizenship; instead, health care is driven by market forces. Thus, the health care system in the United States contributes to poor access for citizens who are either uninsured or underinsured. Although the Affordable Care Act likely will help to reduce disparities in health care access, estimates suggest that minority women, who are disproportionately of low socioeconomic status, may be adversely affected in states that do not expand Medicaid coverage. As of 2013, 59% of uninsured African Americans, who otherwise would be eligible for Medicaid under the expansion, lived in states with no plans to expand Medicaid coverage

Reducing racial and ethnic disparities in wellness and health care should be a priority for all platforms and other women’s health care providers. Providers of women's health and wellness platforms are committed to doing just that by:

  • raising awareness among colleagues, residents, staff, and hospital administrators about the prevalence of racial and ethnic disparities and the effect on health outcomes

  • understanding the role that practitioner bias can play in health outcomes and health care

  • strongly encouraging the adoption of federal standards for collection of race and ethnicity information in clinical and administrative data to better identify disparities

  • promoting research that not only identifies structural and cultural barriers to care but also tests the effectiveness of interventions to address such barriers

  • educating patients in a culturally sensitive manner about steps they can take to prevent disease conditions that are prevalent in their racial and ethnic groups

  • supporting and assisting in the recruitment of physicians and other health care providers from racial and ethnic minorities into academic and community health care fields

Successful interventions to reduce health disparities are likely to be multifactorial and incremental in nature, taking aim at root causes of suboptimal outcomes and care. Addressing social determinants of health is critical to reducing inequities in health status


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