Historical and structural racism is a huge barrier to quality health care that has created two tiers of access to care and a lack of understanding of the healthcare system. Government health agencies and leaders, such as the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), are tackling racial disparities in health care directly to change the dynamic to equality for all Americans. AHRQ says it is assessing its own agency and examining how professionals can make the health services research field more diverse and inclusive by building on a foundation that includes producing and promoting the annual National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and AHRQ’s social determinants of health database. By recognizing disparities related to race and ethnicity, income, and other social determinants, the organization plans to further address historical racism in health care.
In an April 2021 blog post, several AHRQ leaders wrote that “a lack of health equity underlies these disparities and continues to result in unconscionable differences in patient outcomes. These differences have been made even more apparent by the COVID-19 pandemic and the stark disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and other minority communities.”
To meet its goals, AHRQ will build on a foundation that includes producing and promoting the annual National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and AHRQ’s social determinants of health database. The report identifies trends in measures related to access to care, affordable care, effective treatment, and research findings on quality of and access to health care, among others. Moving forward, AHRQ envisions:
- Requiring grant applications to include an analysis of how the proposed research accounts for systemic racism and how results support increasing health equity
- Developing new funding mechanisms to support the career development of individuals from communities underrepresented in the health services research field
- Supporting efforts across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to appropriately collect sociodemographic data
- Soliciting research proposals that address the impact of systemic and other types of racism on health outcomes
Such a comprehensive list requires the healthcare system to recognize deficiencies and suggest recommendations for correction to access quality care. ONS’s access to care position statement applies to determinants of every facet, whether related to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or location. Oncology nurse advocacy for breaking down those barriers is crucial for advancing health care in our culture and society.