Only a Third of California Doctors Are People of Color, But 60 Percent of Residents Are

By Hannah Guzik

Fewer than half of doctors and nurses are people of color in California, a state where 60 percent of the population identifies as Latino, Asian American or African American, according to a new report.

But mentoring, school support and other social programs can help end this disparity, states the report from Berkeley public policy group The Greenlining Institute.

About 34 percent of physicians and 47 percent of registered nurses are people of color in California, according to the Jan. 17 report.

Meanwhile, 38.8 percent of Californians are Latino, 14.7 are Asian American and 6.5 percent are African American.

“The state’s health workforce remains far short of reflecting the diversity of California’s populace,” the report states.

This can create problems when treating patients, because doctors or nurses may not understand a patients’ culture or language, which can lead to incorrect diagnoses, medications or treatments.

The report recommends that California officials create programs to expose more young people to health careers, provide mentorships with health care professionals and provide social services support, such as helping students figure out transportation to work or school.

Researchers interviewed five health professionals at California organizations that are working to diversify the health workforce: Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership, FACES for the Future, Kaiser Permanente’s KP Launch, Mentoring in Medicine and Sciences, Inc. and Urban Strategies Council.

Increasing the number of health care workers who are people of color could have two positive outcomes, Anthony Galace, Greenlining’s health policy director, said in a statement.

“Boosting these numbers can help to assure culturally competent care while creating career pathways for disadvantaged young people,” he said.

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