Recommendations for teaching about racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care

Ann Intern Med. 2007 Nov 6;147(9):654-65. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-147-9-200711060-00010.


Racial and ethnic minorities often receive lower-quality health care than white patients, even when socioeconomic status, education, access, and other factors are used as controls. To address these pervasive disparities, health care professionals should learn more about them and the roles they can play in eliminating them, but few curricula are focused on understanding and addressing racial and ethnic health disparities, and well-accepted guidelines on what and how to teach in this complex area are lacking. The Society of General Internal Medicine Health Disparities Task Force used a review and consensus process to develop specific recommendations and guidelines for curricula focusing on health disparities. Learning objectives, content, methods for teaching, and useful resources are provided. Although the guidelines were developed primarily for teaching medical students, residents, and practitioners in primary care, the Task Force's general recommendations can apply to learners in any specialty. The Task Force recommends that a curricula address 3 areas of racial and ethnic health disparities and focus on the following specific learning objectives:1) examining and understanding attitudes, such as mistrust, subconscious bias, and stereotyping, which practitioners and patients may bring to clinical encounters; 2) gaining knowledge of the existence and magnitude of health disparities, including the multifactorial causes of health disparities and the many solutions required to diminish or eliminate them; and 3) acquiring the skills to effectively communicate and negotiate across cultures, languages, and literacy levels, including the use of key tools to improve communication. The broad goal of a curriculum on disparities should be for learners to develop a commitment to eliminating inequities in health care quality by understanding and assuming their professional role in addressing this pressing health care crisis.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Curriculum*
  • Ethnicity*
  • Faculty, Medical / standards
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Personnel / education
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education*
  • Minority Health*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Teaching
  • Teaching Materials
  • United States