About The Study

The Institute of Medicine is pleased to release “Unequal Treatment” as a report of the committee on understanding and eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare. The study was requested by the Congress in response to evidence that the quality of healthcare provided to racial and ethnic minorities in the United States is of lower quality than the care provided to white Americans. In response to that request, the Department of Health and Human Services, through its Office of Minority Health, contracted with the Institute of Medicine to conduct the study that will be presented this morning.

Additional support for the study was provided from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Fund and from the Commonwealth Fund, and we are grateful to all of these sponsors for the opportunity to undertake this important study. The charge to this committee was to assess differences in the kinds and quality of healthcare received by US racial and ethnic minorities and non-minorities. To conduct the study, the Institute appointed a distinguished committee of scientists.

The committee reviewed an extensive body of research from many fields of science and gathered evidence from multiple sources, including hearings and communications from experts through liaison panels. These sources are detailed in the report. When the committee had completed its deliberations, their report was subjected to the National Research Council review process, which entails a comprehensive review of the draft report by an equally distinguished panel of experts. The committee was required to satisfy all of the questions and criticisms raised by the reviewers before their report became final. The reviewers are also listed in the report.

Finally, the institute also has in progress another study commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services to provide guidance on the design and content of measures to include in the first national report on healthcare disparities, which will be issued in 2003. We hope that this second report will help to measure national progress in addressing the disparities in health that result in part from the issues that will be discussed this morning. Through these and other studies, we are pleased to contribute to the recognition, acknowledgement and redress of unequal health experienced by racial and ethnic minorities in this country.

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