A day after the Institute of Medicine said increasing racial diversity in healthcare is in the nation's "compelling interest," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) promised to introduce legislation to address both disparities in care and in representation in the industry. The IOM report -- arguing that diversity is associated with better access to care for minorities, among other benefits -- explored strategies to reduce institutional- and policy-level barriers to increasing diversity. Those include: revising admissions policies to health profession education programs, reviewing the standards accreditation agencies have regarding diversity and considering the relationship between "community benefits" and diversity. Read the IOM report.
Meanwhile, Frist released a summary of legislation he said he would introduce next week. The summary outlined five areas of focus: uniform measures of healthcare quality; grants to community health centers, faith-based organizations and others for improving access to care and education; a greater role for HHS' Office of Minority Health; funding to increase the number of minority providers and foster cultural sensitivity in the profession; and research on the sources of disparities. Earlier this year, the Bush administration came under fire for allegedly watering down the conclusions of a government report on racial disparity in healthcare. Read previous coverage of the controversy. -- by Patrick Reilly and Tony Fong