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Black History Month: Black Americans and Health Education

black history month

Recruiting more Black students into medical fields will result in more positive health outcomes.

For this year’s Black History Month, we’re dedicating a weekly blog series to examining the specific challenges Black Americans experience in higher education, and sharing some of the actionable steps Liaison is taking in pursuit of advancing equity. This week’s discussion examines the need for a more diverse medical workforce as well as Liaison’s participation in initiatives designed to foster inclusivity, equity and diversity in college admissions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12.6% of the American labor force identifies as Black or African American. However, in the healthcare fields, Black professionals are underrepresented in almost every profession. Black Americans account for just:

  • 9.9% of nurses
  • 5.0% of physicians
  • 5.0% of physical therapists
  • 4.9% of pharmacists
  • 3.8% of dentists
  • 3.6% of speech-language pathologists

The effects of this disparity are profound. 40% of first- and second-year medical students surveyed within the past decade held false beliefs about Black people, such as “Black people’s skin is thicker than white people’s.” Black infants are more likely to survive childbirth when their doctors are Black. Even among minority groups, Black Americans receive the worst care: according to the Agency for Healthcare Research, Black patients received worse care than Whites for 41% of quality measures, compared to Asian Americans (30%), American Indians (30%) and non-white Hispanics (39%).

It’s clear that the world needs more Black students preparing to enter the health professions.

Focusing on More Comprehensive — and Equitable — Recruitment Strategies

Among the groups at the forefront of these efforts are our partners at the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH). With its This is Public Health campaign, ASPPH is expanding awareness of all of the career opportunities available in this field in an effort to build a more diverse public health workforce.

At Liaison, we are also using our resources and marketing reach to disseminate information about scholarships in the health sciences for Black and minority applicants. Since we took over management of ExploreHealthCareers.org from the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) in 2017, we’ve continued using this resource to address:

  • The under-representation of minorities in the workforce.
  • The shortage of health professionals in medically underserved communities.

Learn more at ExploreHealthCareers’ Why Diversity Matters in Health Care page, and explore these scholarships through the site’s Scholarship Search feature.

Join us again next week for the final installment of our Black History Month series, where we will look at how institutions of higher education can create better employment outcomes for Black Americans.

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