Every day, hospitals care for increasingly diverse communities and patients, said American Hospital Association (AHA) president and chief executive officer Rich Umbdenstock. Finding ways to eliminate the gaps in access to care and quality of care for minorities is a key component to health care reform and we’re pleased to help lead this important discussion.

Included in the letter are three legislative priorities to consider during this national debate to help meet the goal of equal access to care:

Support improvements in health care delivery through incentives, resources and better data collection designed to eliminate disparities in health care for minority populations;

Develop and expand the health care workforce to improve the availability of needed nurses, doctors and other caregivers in minority and underserved communities; and

Eliminate other barriers to access for minorities by providing coverage and access to care for all, resources to address the factors that contribute to the disparities gap and training to help health care providers deliver culturally competent care.

The priorities grew out of the work of the AHA Special Advisory Group on Improving Hospital Care for Minorities and were embraced by 24 national advocacy groups. The letter points to US Census Bureau projections which show that by 2050, nearly half of all Americans will identify themselves as racial or ethnic minorities. It also cites the 2003 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Unequal Treatment, which found that minority populations have been left behind in access to timely, quality health care services and positive health outcomes.

The AHA Special Advisory Group on Improving Hospital Care for Minorities, comprising a variety of stakeholders, was created in 2007 to study ways to improve hospital care and eliminate disparities among minority populations. A goal of the group is to ensure that racial and ethnic minorities have a voice in the national debate on health care reform.

The organizations that signed the letter are: American Hospital Association, AIDS Action, Aetna, American Academy of Nursing, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Association of Pastoral Counselors, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, Association of Language Companies, Child Welfare League of America, Japanese Americans Citizens League, National Association of Counties, National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Black Nurses Association, National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nursing Organizations, National Health Law Program, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Immigration Law Center, National Medical Association, National Urban League and National Women’s Law Center.