About half of U.S. health care workers have witnessed racial discrimination against patients and say discrimination against patients is a crisis or major problem, according to a survey released Feb. 15 by the Commonwealth Fund and African American Research Collaborative. Younger workers and workers of color were more likely than their older or white counterparts to say they witnessed discrimination, as were workers at facilities with more patients of color. About six in 10 Black health care workers and four in 10 Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander workers say they have been discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity. 

While most health care workers see positive efforts from employers to address discrimination, a majority of Black, Latino, and AAPI workers worry about retaliation if they raise discrimination concerns. When asked about potential solutions, more than two-thirds of health care workers thought the following could help: providing an easy way to anonymously report situations involving racism or discrimination; creating opportunities to listen to patients and health care professionals of color; examining treatment of non-English-speaking patients; and training health care staff to spot discrimination. 

“The AHA’s vision is of a just society of healthy communities where all individuals reach their highest potential for health,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “That is why we believe that all patients deserve to receive care — and that all caregivers deserve to work — in environments that are free of discrimination. These national survey results across multiple health care settings are a weighty reminder that to advance equity, health care providers must feel respected and empowered to take actions to eliminate inequities in all forms.

“Every patient should receive the highest quality care regardless of their race, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic. Every caregiver should work in an environment that champions respect and equity.

“Collaboration, trust-building and sustained and dedicated hard work will be necessary to carry out this objective, and we recognize the unique and important role hospitals play in making that happen.

“Hospitals and health systems are committed to this work and are actively engaged in addressing inequities, eliminating disparities, and increasing workforce diversity to better reflect the communities they serve. The AHA’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity serves as a catalyst for hospitals’ efforts, sharing evidence-based practices, resources and innovations — including our Health Equity Roadmap — that will further sustainable transformation in health care.”

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