Advance Equity in Health Care

Advance Equity

Issue: Support policies that improve access to high-value and comprehensive health care for all members of society in ways that move us closer to health equity for all. Improve diversity in the physician workforce and reduce social disparities in health care by promoting evidence-based solutions that foster and respect diversity, inclusion, and equity in all aspects of the physician workforce.

Why Action is Needed

A diverse health care workforce is an essential part of eliminating disparities among People of Color and underserved populations. Unfortunately, there is a longstanding lack of diversity and inclusion in the medical profession. Many populations, including racial and ethnic minorities, members of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, people with disabilities, patients seeking substance use and mental health services, individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, and those living in rural and underserved areas, are more likely to experience challenges accessing healthcare services, receive lower quality of care, and suffer from below average health outcomes when compared to the general population. Many intersecting social drivers of health can affect a person’s health, including racism and discrimination, economic and educational disadvantages, health care access and quality, individual behavior, and biology.

Conditions and factors, such as obesity and substance use present challenges to equitable health care for all. Obesity is a grave health problem linked to chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, that must be addressed in a compassionate and equitable manner nationally, and maternal mortality adversely affects women of color disproportionately.

ACP’s Position

ACP has long expressed concern over the state of racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care and remains committed to elevating and supporting evidence-based public policy solutions to alleviate them. In ACP’s policy paper addressing health and workplace inequities, we recommend that policymakers:

  1. Promote policies for a diverse, equitable, and inclusive physician workforce, which is crucial to promoting equity and understanding among clinicians and patients and to facilitating quality care.
  2. Strengthen U.S. education to improve health, health literacy, and diversity in medical education and the physician workforce and address the disproportionate adverse effect of discrimination and inequitable financing in education on specific communities based on their personal characteristics.
  3. Address disparities in health and health care related to a person's race, ethnicity, religion, cultural identity, poverty and other social drivers.
  4. Consider discrimination and hate against any person on the basis of personal characteristics as a public health crisis.
  5. Implement policy to improve coverage, quality, and access to care for all, while addressing the disproportionate effect on those at risk due to personal characteristics.

Call to Action

  • Support funding to address social drivers of health, including investments in programs and services that reduce health disparities or costs, data collection and use of algorithms.
  • Support legislation, like the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act to address social drivers of maternal health, expand the perinatal workforce, and address the effects of climate change on maternal and infant health.
  • Expand and diversify the physician workforce through legislation, such as H.R. 1202, the Resident Education Deferred Interest Act, (REDI) and S. 665, Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act, and fund loan forgiveness programs like the National Health Service Corps, which makes medical education more affordable and increases the physician workforce in Health Professional Shortage Areas.