NEW YORK: Pfizer has joined forces with the Washington Business Group on Health (WBGH) for an initiative addressing healthcare disparities in the workplace.In the works since August 2001, the project was formalized after the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a study in March 2002 revealing that racial and ethnic minorities tended to receive lower-quality healthcare than whites do, even when insurance status, income, age, and condition are comparable.
"Doctors are doing patients a disservice without even knowing it," explained Judy Campbell, director of alliance development for Pfizer Health Solutions.
"The IOM's results show that health disparities exist among different ethnic groups because healthcare professionals have not been educated on the issues."
Most medical schools and other university healthcare programs do not require attendees to learn about the cultural nuances of different ethnic groups. "There needs to be a certain sensitivity in figuring out how people comply with prescribed treatments,
said Campbell, who explained, "It would be narrow-minded to tell someone with a certain cultural background to give up certain foods to improve their medical condition."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 41.5% of workers in the US between 1998 and 2008 will be of minority descent. Pfizer and WBGH's campaign targets benefits and human resources departments at large corporations.
Kellogg's is one of three companies currently participating in the project.
The other two will be announced at the end of this month.
The two-year program, which will conclude in the summer of 2003, is being enacted in three steps: employee assessments, reports to employers, and employer assessments. "We want to provide a tool kit for employers so that they know the right questions to ask of the healthcare providers trying to get their business,
said Campbell. "Whether or not a provider speaks Spanish was never asked before. But clearly, it needs to be."