History of Mistreatment

Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia

Medicine and Ethnic Diversity

Contributors: Kimberly Vess Halbu, Duane A. Halbur & Alexis Rossi Edited by: Carlos E. Cortés Book Title: Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia Chapter Title: “Medicine and Ethnic Diversity” Pub. Date: 2013 Access Date: July 30, 2019 Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Inc. City: Thousand Oaks Print ISBN: 9781452216836 Online ISBN: 9781452276274 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452276274.n561 Print pages: 1431-1434

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As the 2010 census shows, the United States is becoming increasingly diverse. The shifting demographics have a strong impact on the practice of medicine in various ways, particularly because patients belonging to a minority ethnic group such as African American, Hispanic American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, Native Hawai’ian, and Pacific Islander tend to have worse health outcomes than their Caucasian peers. According to the Office of Minority Health, patients from these groups are at a higher risk of illness and death from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, asthma, hepatitis B, obesity, and certain cancers. Additionally, the Institute of Medicine found that minorities are less likely to receive certain types of treatment such as dialysis and transplants, and particular cardiac procedures like bypass surgery.

Ethnic and racial minorities are more likely to receive more drastic procedures, such as amputations, as a result of diabetes. In order to best provide quality health care for a diverse patient population and overcome increasingly pronounced health disparities, medicine must take ethnicity and related factors such as religion, language, and health care beliefs, as well as social determinants of health, into consideration in medical prac- tice, research, and education.

History of Mistreatment

Ethnic and racial minorities have not always been treated well within the medical field, which has resulted in mistrust of the medical system within some ethnic communities. Before the civil rights movement demanded equal treatment, ethnic and racial groups were often separated from Caucasian patients in hospitals, clinics, and other health care services. Often, these segregated areas for patients of minority racial and ethnic back- grounds were less equipped than medical institutions that catered to the Caucasian population. Ethnic and racial minority patients were at risk for being refused treatment, discriminated against, and not given adequate care, and were often blamed for their condition.

Therefore, taking into account ethnic diversity in the practice of medicine is vital to the diverse population in the United States. One cannot have the discussion of ethnic diversity and the practice of medicine without ap- proaching the essential presence of cultural competency for those who practice or are involved in the process of medical care. Cultural competency is not just the simple knowledge of facts about each culture, it is also an acquired set of positive beliefs, attitudes, and values that allows for positive and effective interactions with individuals and groups of people who are culturally different from one’s own group. Cultural competency is a multifaceted set of knowledge and actionable skills that is essential for application in every interaction, includ- ing relationships from the casual setting to the professional setting. Specifically, cultural competency in the practice of medicine is a topic of discussion that is now, more than ever, an essential and currently ongoing discussion as a result of the cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity of individuals in our communities and work- places.

For every stakeholder in medicine, from the patient to the doctors and staff who provide care, culture touches every aspect of health care: patient treatment plans, medication, medical procedures, and the working rela- tionship of the doctors and staff who deliver these services to benefit the patient. In effect, there are numerous cultures working together, including the patient, in an effort to provide the best health care and treatment. Therefore, such an enormous amount of cultural variety calls for knowledge and actionable skills that address the intersection of many different cultures working together and understand cross-cultural dynamics in medi- cine.

The practice of medicine involves a number of culturally sensitive components. Specifically, treatment plans that involve doctor-prescribed medications and health behaviors must be communicated and articulated in ways that result in patient ability, understanding, and willingness to follow the prescribed medications and health behaviors. Therefore, effectively weaving ethnic diversity into the practice of medicine must involve treatment, treatment plans, and communication that are amenable to patients of all cultural backgrounds.

A few factors that can play into effective medical treatment of ethnically diverse patients include environmental

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