Friday, December 4, 2015

Racial Disparities and Access to Healthcare

By Guest Blogger, Tiffany Harris, Ph.D.

It is well-understood that minorities in America access healthcare less often than white Americans. Because some of these individuals do not consistently maintain annual well visits or mental health services, they utilize emergency department services more frequently. It is theorized that minorities who do not have access to private insurance have less opportunity to maintain well visits. As a result, Medicaid eligibility was expanded in several states and initiatives and grants have been established to ensure that more individuals have access to insurance and that they provide reimbursement for necessary medical and mental health services. It’s also theorized that minorities have more difficulty accessing healthcare services because there is a lack of clinics in the immediate neighborhood to provide these services. Consequently, many hospitals, clinics and community mental health centers have made the effort to integrate primary care with mental health care to provide a one-stop solution for individuals who might have difficulty traveling to and accessing different services.

However, there is another problem that remains a barrier for minorities to access healthcare services, that is a level of confidence that when they seek medical or mental health help, that help will be provided. Mistrust in healthcare professionals is a consequence of the long-term maltreatment of marginalized individuals. It is proposed that more ethnic minority healthcare professionals are needed to bridge the gap between minority patients and healthcare to rebuild confidence and trust. However, there is a lack of ethnic minority physicians and mental health care professionals. For this reason, it is imperative that all healthcare professionals that may engage with ethnic minority patients be culturally competent and culturally sensitive. Additionally, educational programs for healthcare professions should be made more easily accessible for ethnic minority students.

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Elizabeth Harris, PhD is a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals/UH Rainbow Babies and Children. Her special interests include sociocultural stressors, consultation liaison services, performance anxiety, disruptive behavior disorders and parent-child relationships. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Toledo; and a master’s in psychology and a doctorate in counseling psychology from Walden University. She was previously recognized for an excellent non-empirical poster submission at the 2012 Cleveland Psychological Association, winner of the 2015 Ohio Psychological Association graduate poster session and she presented her research in a grand rounds lecture for the department of psychiatry at University Hospitals.


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