Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 19, Issue 11, pp 1154–1159 | Cite as

Why do providers contribute to disparities and what can be done about it?

  • Diana J. Burgess
  • Steven S. Fu
  • Michelle van Ryn


This paper applies social cognition research to understanding and ameliorating the provider contribution to racial/ethnic disparities in health care. We discuss how fundamental cognitive mechanisms such as automatic, unconscious processes (e.g., stereotyping) can help explain provider bias. Even well-intentioned providers who are motivated to be nonprejudiced may stereotype racial/ethnic minority members, particularly under conditions of that diminish cognitive capacity. These conditions—time pressure, fatigue, and information overload—are frequently found in health care settings. We conclude with implications of the social-cognitive perspective for developing interventions to reduce provider bias.

Key words

provider behavior disparities race ethnicity social cognition 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana J. Burgess
    • 1
    • 4
  • Steven S. Fu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Michelle van Ryn
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research (CCDOR), VA Medical Center (1110)Minneapolis
  2. 2.Section of General Internal MedicineMinneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical CenterMinneapolis
  3. 3.Department of EpidemiologyUniversity of Minnesota School of Public HealthMinneapolis
  4. 4.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolis

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