IOM Report Shows ‘Big Discrepancies’ in AIDS Care Among Whites, Minorities
The National Academies' Institute of Medicine yesterday released a 562-page report that found that minorities, particularly African Americans, are less likely than whites to get proper medical care, even when they have similar health insurance and incomes, contributing to higher death rates from diseases such as AIDS, cancer and heart disease, the New York Times reports (Stolberg, New York Times, 3/21). The report found that the "biggest discrepancies" came in the areas of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS (Connolly, Washington Post, 3/21). AIDS is currently the eighth leading cause of death in the United States (Fox, Reuters/Newark Star-Ledger, 3/21). Although HIV/AIDS treatments have existed for years and raised the overall life expectancy of those with the disease, the IOM report found that black and Hispanic people with HIV/AIDS were 24% less likely than whites to receive protease inhibitors or reverse transcriptase inhibitors as part of their therapy (Pelton, Baltimore Sun, 3/21). The report, which examined more than 100 studies conducted over the last 10 years, is the "first comprehensive look" at racial health disparities among people who have health insurance. Other reviews of racial health disparities have attributed the problem to lack of access to care. However, the IOM report states that "subtle racial prejudice" and the quality of health insurance may be partially to blame (New York Times, 3/21). Dr. Alan Nelson, former president of the American Medical Association and chair of the 15-member IOM research panel that conducted the study, said that medical training should include a cultural sensitivity component and that hospitals need to hire more interpreters. He also said that the medical profession needs to become more diverse (Galarza, Los Angeles Times, 3/21). Del. Donna Christian-Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands) agreed, saying that the government's minority HIV/AIDS initiative and medical education programs could help draw more minorities into the profession. However, the programs are "underfunded" in President Bush's proposed fiscal year 2003 budget, she said (Washington Post, 3/21). The report, which was requested by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), recommends that in order to improve minority health, access to high-quality health plans be equalized, treatment be based on medical evidence, interpreter services be increased and enforcement by the HHS Office of Civil Rights be "bolster[ed]" (Sternberg, USA Today, 3/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.