Racial disparities persist in health outcomes

A group of studies tracking care patterns and outcomes are pointing to a troubling conclusion--that racial minorities, as a group, aren't getting the same care or level of positive health outcomes as the Caucasian population. Two studies published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that racial minorities are less likely to get surgeries done at skilled, high-volume hospitals, and that African-American participants uniformly do worse in Medicare HMOs regardless of the health plan's quality rating. Another study cited by the Post concluded that African-American women are less likely to survive breast cancer than Caucasian women.

These differences are pervasive, and persist all the way from preventative care to surgical treatment. Not only are U.S. minorities are less likely to receive basic tests for common conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, they're also less likely to receive procedures such as appendectomies and heart bypass surgery. Research is ongoing into the causes of these disparities, but to date, the reasons for these dramatic differences are subject to debate, with some pointing to behavioral differences fueled by cultural perceptions and others noting that low-income minorities may live in areas where the public health system is already strained.

For context on this research:
- read this Washington Post article
- see the JAMA release on research addressing access to hospitals with high surgical volumes
- see the JAMA release on research addressing disparities in African-American health outcomes in Medicare HMOs