August 30, 2002

Kellogg Program Seeks to Increase Diversity Among Health Professionals

A $3.6 million program announced today by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will develop new approaches for increasing the diversity of America’s health professions workforce.

Joining Kellogg in the effort will be Duke University, Community Catalyst, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Today, minorities comprise about 25 percent of the U.S. population, yet only 6 percent of the practicing physicians are Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans,” said William C. Richardson, Kellogg Foundation president and CEO. “And, we’re seeing a link between the shortage of minority health professionals and the higher levels of death and disease that afflict minority populations.”

In the “Unequal Treatment” report issued earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), researchers found that minorities suffer a disproportionalty high level of mortality. A leading reason for the disparity, the study found, was the lack of a diverse health care provider workforce. The research suggests that African American and Hispanic physicians see significantly more African American and Hispanic patients than do other doctors.

The Kellogg project also builds on the findings of “The color of Medicine Report: Strategies for Increasing Diversity in the U.S. Physician Workforce,” which was released in April by Community Catalyst, a Boston-based national health consumer advocacy organization. According to the report, after decades of trying to graduate more minority doctors, teaching hospitals and medical schools continue to use selection criteria and training processes that restrict minorities from entering the medical profession.

Through its new project, the Kellogg Foundation will support efforts to educate more minority doctors, dentists, nurses, and health care administrators. Each of the project’s three national partners will pursue different approaches for increasing diversity in the health care workforce.

An underlying concept for the project will be “community benefits,” which emerged more than 35 years ago when the IRS and Department of Treasury expanded the meaning of charity care. Basically, the term refers to tax-exempt institutions, such as hospitals and universities, and their obligation to provide benefits to the community through the tax-funded services they provide. In the case of health professions education, Kellogg officials believe the community benefits standard could be applied as a way to promote greater minority enrollment in higher education institutions.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930 “to help people help themselves through the practical application of knowledge and resources to improve their quality of life and that of future generations.” Its programming activities center around the common vision of a world in which each person has a sense of worth; accepts responsibility for self, family, community, and societal well-being; and has the capacity to be productive, and to help create nurturing families, responsive institutions, and healthy communities.

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