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September 2000

Diversity in Health Care: Expanding our Perspectives

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154(9):871-872. doi:10.1001/archpedi.154.9.871

A KEY COMPONENT of the President's Initiative on Race set forth in 1998 was the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in health in 6 areas, including infant mortality and childhood immunizations, by the year 2010. The US health care system's ability to provide quality care to all Americans in the future hinges on its capacity to successfully meet these goals. If we are to maintain our high standards of health care delivery, we must be prepared to meet the challenges that our nation's increasing diversity poses, while simultaneously benefiting from the strengths diversity provides. Currently in the United States, racial/ethnic minorities comprise 28% of the population, and are expected to increase to 40% by the year 2030. Conversely, underrepresented minorities (African Americans, mainland Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans) comprise only 7% of the current physician workforce, 3% of the academic faculty at medical schools, and 11% of the medical graduates in the class of 1997.1 Unlike the growth in diversity experienced by our country as a whole, the number of underrepresented minorities entering medical schools has been declining during the past 3 years.2 As we aim to eliminate racial/ethnic disparities in health, we should expand our perspectives as to why it is important to diversify our health care workforce.

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