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Health, Science & Environment

Landmark study will examine disparities in minority health care in Ohio

Medical professionals at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center administer a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in 2021
Wexner Medical Center, Ohio State University
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Ohio State University Wexner Center
Medical professionals at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center administer a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in 2021

A comprehensive study will be conducted to examine the behavioral and mental health disparities people of color in Ohio are dealing with, including higher pregnancy complications and less access to health care.

Tracy Maxwell Heard, former Ohio House minority leader and Democratic state representative, said she is working with one of the two non-profit groups involved with the study.

Heard, the executive director at Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, said the first phase of this study will look at data that is currently available.

"Who has that data and in what form? Is it aggregate? Are they geographical reflections? And most importantly, are there any racial or ethnic reflections in that data? Where the holes are because we know there are areas where there are holes and there is no data. And then to determine who is the appropriate entity to fill those," Heard said.

The study will look at stigma, racism and provider bias, all of which lead to poorer health outcomes for minorities. Heard said she already knows there are verifiable differences in health care among minority populations so the study won't stop there.

"There are things that we know, things that we expect, things that we experience just in doing our jobs, specifically talking to practitioners but the question is: to what extent?" she said.

Heard wants to know to what extent are there health worker shortages that affect minority communities and identify the parts of the state where the need is the greatest. She said it will also look at providers to make sure they are adhering to cultural and linguistic standards of care to help them reach the communities they are trying to serve.

This four-part study is already underway. Data is expected to start coming in during the next couple of months.

Eventually, once the data is known at the end of this year, recommendations will be made to medical and health associations, non-profits, state agencies and lawmakers so they can figure out ways to mitigate the problem.

The study is funded by private companies. It involves Central State University, an HBCU based near Dayton. Ohio University will also be working on the study. The non-profit Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy Coalition will also be part of the effort.

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Health, Science & Environment Ohio NewsHealthcare
Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.