Minority Health Disparities Crisis Still News to Most Americans

How can America hope to win the war against racial and ethnic health care disparities when a sizable majority of its citizens still don’t know that the problem even exists? That’s the troubling question raised by a survey released in December 2005 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Alliance for Health Reform. The survey, “Americans’ Views of Disparities in Health Care,” reveals that a full 68% of Americans—approximately two out of three–are unaware that minorities generally do not receive the same quality of care as their Caucasian counterparts.


Not surprisingly, this lack of awareness is greatest among white Americans, with only 25% believing that health care is worse for people of color. In contrast, minority respondents had a much more realistic perspective: Nearly half (44%) of African Americans and more than half (56%) of Hispanics said they believe minorities receive inferior care compared to whites. The complete report is available online at www.rwjf.org.

The good news is that the poll–conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and ICR/International Communications Research–found that most respondents do believe all Americans deserve equal care. And that creates a terrific community education and awareness-building opportunity for nurses.

“This data tells us that we need to do more to make real improvements in health care and inform the public about both the problem and solutions,” explains Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “It will take everyone–from the federal government, health care insurance providers, doctors and nurses, and even consumers themse