This paper reviews research evidence on access to health care by ethnic minority populations, and discusses what might need to be done to improve access to services. Significant racial and ethnic disparities exist in the minority population's health. These health disparities largely result from differences in socioeconomic status and insurance status. Although many disparities diminish after taking these factors into account, some remain because of health care system-level, patient-level, and provider-level factors. Health professionals are encouraged to engage in activities to help achieve this goal. In most healthcare systems, it is acknowledged that black and minority ethnic populations have until now experienced poorer health and barriers to accessing certain services. Closing the health gap for people in these population groups is now an important priority. The growth of various ethnic communities and linguistic groups, each with its own cultural traits and health profiles, presents a complex challenge to healthcare practitioners and policy makers in terms of achieving equitable access. This paper presents some of the research evidence on access by ethnic minority populations, and considers what might need to be done to improve the situation. The discussion is based on a number of reviews undertaken by the author examining the evidence on population diversity and variations in service uptake, health outcomes, effective patient communication, and involvement in decision making.
Although migration is the norm and health care a natural right of every individual, ethnic minority patients seem to be confronted with barriers when using health services. Their use of health services is also lower, when compared with their non-immigrant counterparts. Yet, care providers often are oblivious to these barriers, although they may share to some extent the burden of responsibility for them.