Diversity dialogue

Decreasing disparities could save dollars

By Czerne M. Reid

Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, a former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and founding dean and president emeritus of the Morehouse School of Medicine, spoke about the economic impact of health disparities during the UF Health Science Center's Diversity Dialogue./Photo by Jesse S. Jones.

High rates of illness among the population and poor access to health care don’t just burden society, they also drive economic costs higher. A major contributor to the rise is the gap in health status known to exist between ethnic minorities and other groups, health researchers say. One way to help reduce inequities in health and save health care dollars is to increase the proportion of ethnic minorities in the health professions workforce, and, in so doing, provide more culturally sensitive care. This was the keynote message of Louis Sullivan, M.D., a former secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services, who spoke at the Diversity Dialogue and Student Symposium on Health Professions held in March. The U.S. spends trillions on health care each year, and a large fraction of that is attributable to health inequities, experts say. “We pay in various ways that we’re not aware of,” Sullivan said. “Indeed, dollars come out of our pockets because of the ongoing problem of health disparities in our country.”