Perspective Article

Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 61-66

First online:

Some Advice for Minorities and Women on the Receiving End of Health-care Disparities

  • Augustus A. WhiteIIIAffiliated withCulturally Competent Care Education Program, Harvard Medical School Email author 


The pervasive, distressing realities of health-care disparities were well documented in the milestone publication by the Institute of Medicine in 2003. This work reviewed numerous articles published in peer-reviewed journals showing disparities in health care for a number of groups in our society, including African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and women. These disparities are caused by conscious and subconscious bias, stereotyping, racism, and sexism in our society. Although not enough, there are numerous programs and activities designed to eliminate health-care disparities. Health literacy is one element that is helpful in improving anyone’s health care. For those who are at risk to experience health-care disparities, a patient education program is thought to be helpful, although presenting without evidence basis. If patients at risk for health-care disparities can be educated to have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to negotiate a system wrought with disparities, this would be helpful in diminishing the existence of these disparities. Fifteen specific recommendations are offered which together are expected to provide considerable help in diminishing health-care disparities in the at-risk patient population. A brief explanation of the reason and rationale for the recommendations is offered as needed. A presentation of the patient’s rights and responsibilities is provided to help patients cope in this current medical environment. These rights and responsibilities are well-regarded examples of current best practices.


Advice to patients Health care disparities Conscious bias Subconscious bias Stereotyping Racism Health literacy Patient education Patient rights Patient responsibilities Ambient racism Distrust Teach back Humanize Interpreter