Funding Equity in Health Workforce Development
Action must be taken to protect people of color
The U.S. has a massive shortage of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous professionals in high-skill healthcare roles. Black Americans are only 4 percent of physicians and less than 7 percent of recent medical school graduates—despite making up 13 percent of the population—and the proportion of Black men in medical schools has actually dropped over the past 40 years (the share of Hispanic men and women has stayed constant, while Black women have shown some growth).
This lack of diversity fuels gaps in health outcomes: Research shows that patients that share racial identity with their doctors accept more preventative treatments, show better awareness of their medical risks, and adhere more closely over time to doctors’ instructions. One recent study documented a 15 percent reduction in inpatient mortality when Black patients were paired with Black doctors. Another clinical study found a 19 percent reduction in the Black-white mortality gap for outpatient cardiovascular care with patient-physician race-match.
Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are not only underrepresented in leadership: They are overrepresented in low-paying support roles. Indeed, there is already a significant talent pool of the Underrepresented in Medicine (or URM); they are simply segregated at the bottom of the career ladder. 59 percent of direct care workers in the United States are BIPOC and 86 percent are women, but they are often underpaid, under-supported, and suffer from high turnover rates (15 percent live below the federal poverty level.) During the pandemic, the vulnerability of healthcare support and direct care workers became especially apparent: More than 3,600 US care workers died in 2020, many deemed “essential” yet lacking basic PPE, training, or hazard pay. The majority of direct care and health support workers will not go through baccalaureate programs and lack accessible options for upskilling and career progression.
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