[MMA News Now, June 19, 2014] About 75 physicians, residents, medical students and public health workers gathered at St. Paul’s Wilder Center on June 17 to discuss Minnesota’s problematic health care disparities and to help the inform the MMA’s efforts to encourage and support physician leadership in reducing racial and ethnic health disparities.
The event, titled “Closing the Gap: Addressing Minnesota’s Health Disparities,” featured keynote speaker Edward Ehlinger, M.D., Minnesota Commissioner of Health, and a panel of physicians, who shared their perspectives on working with underserved and minority populations.
|Near the end of the forum, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions of the panelists.
Ehlinger touted the overall quality of health and health care in Minnesota, including the state’s ranking as one of the healthiest states in the nation and its high-quality health care system. But he then added, “The good life of Minnesota is not being experienced by everybody,” and provided disturbing data illustrating the gap between the health of the population overall and that of various minority groups. “We have some of the greatest disparities in the country when it comes to infant mortality,” he said.
Ehlinger said that to begin to remedy the problem, the state needs to recognize disparities as unacceptable and set achieving health equity as a goal. He called for health care, communities of color, social services, and political and corporate leaders to take a “health in all policies” approach as they work together to achieve the goal. He talked about the multiple social determinants of health and noted that medical care is only part of the problem. “We can’t treat our way to health equity,” he said.
After Ehlinger’s talk, Walter B. Franz III, M.D., of Mayo Clinic, Tamiko Morgan, M.D., FAAP, of Metropolitan Health Plan, and Shana Sniffen, M.D., of HealthEast Roselawn Clinic, shared their experiences and then answered audience questions regarding health disparities.
Following the discussion, the MMA surveyed attendees on their opinions on a number of topics.
• About 70 percent said they were either confident or very confident that increasing the diversity of the physician workforce would help reduce health disparities.
• With regard to how often Minnesota physicians and other health care providers and facilities unfairly treat people based on their race, 42 percent said somewhat often, 26 percent said often, and 13 percent said very often.
• 47 percent said financial insecurity is the main barrier to improving racial/ethnic health disparities.