California Endowment Scholars in Health Policy at Harvard University - Background
Health care delivery in the United States is undergoing rapid change, with implications for health professionals, patients, institutions, and communities. One of the consistent findings of research on racial inequality in the United States is the persistence of ethnic health disparities. Minority Americans have historically been medically underserved. Access to health care is often impeded for individuals of these vulnerable populations due to lack of adequate insurance, reliance on public coverage, or limited availability of health care providers. In particular, research documents substantial racial health disparities in California. According to the findings of the UCLA 2000 Report on Uninsured Californians, 75% of California's legislative districts have higher rates than the national average, and those districts with the highest uninsured rates also tend to have the highest percentages of populations of color and of family incomes below the federal poverty level. Racial minorities systematically receive inadequate, inappropriate, or lower quality health care services, thereby experiencing a disproportionate level of health problems. Highly trained physicians, dentists, and mental health providers, especially minority health professionals, can contribute significantly by participating actively in policy decisions that will influence the health of underserved populations in California. This level of participation requires knowledge of government and management, as well as solid training in public health and policy. Policy leaders in minority health must understand that only by addressing health needs in the context of culture, can health providers enhance the quality of care, reduce racial disparities in health, and enhance cultural competence and diversity in the health work force.
While medical and dental education and training provide a firm foundation on which to build skills required for effective leadership, the California Endowment Scholars in Health Policy at Harvard University Program is unique in its dedication to training health professionals for leadership roles in health policy, especially minority health policy.