Discussion: Dental Assistants


Limited Providers With the Same Ethnic Background Ethnic minorities are poorly represented among physicians and other health care professionals. For almost all of the following list of health care occupations, Euro-Mediterraneans and Asians are overrepresented while blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented: physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, pharmacists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2011b). Two exceptions were noted. Blacks are overrepresented among licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, and Hispanics are overrepresented among dental assistants. Of the health care occupations tracked, these two require the least amount of education and have the lowest median annual wages (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2011b). More specifically, although African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans make up over a quarter of the nation’s population, in 2007 African Americans accounted for only 3.5%, Hispanics 5%, and Native Americans/Native Alaskans 0.2% of physicians (American College of Physicians, 2010). Similar workforce disparities are found among some Asian subgroups, such as Samoans and Cambodians (American College of Physicians, 2010).

As a result, minority patients are frequently treated by professionals from a different racial or ethnic background. Many programs, funding agencies, and research studies suggest that more diversity is needed among health care professionals to improve quality of care and reduce health disparities. But is there evidence that racial concordance (patients being treated by people in the same ethnic group) accomplishes these goals?

A comprehensive review of research published between 1980 and 2008 was conducted by Meghani et al. (2009). Twenty-seven studies having at least one research question examining the effect of patient–provider race-concordance on minority patients’ health outcomes and pertained to minorities in the United States were included in this review. Of the 27 studies, patient–provider race-concordance was associated with positive health outcomes for minorities in only 9 studies (33%); 8 studies (30%) found no association of race-concordance with the outcomes studied; and 10 studies (37%) presented mixed findings. The authors concluded that having a provider of same race did not improve “ receipt of services” for minorities.
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ion: Dental Assistants


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