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A Study of National Physician Organizations’ Efforts to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the United States

Peek, Monica E. MD, MPH; Wilson, Shannon C. MPH; Bussey-Jones, Jada MD; Lypson, Monica MD; Cordasco, Kristina MD, MPH, MSHS; Jacobs, Elizabeth A. MD, MAPP; Bright, Cedric MD; Brown, Arleen F. MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318253b074
Health Disparities

Purpose To characterize national physician organizations’ efforts to reduce health disparities and identify organizational characteristics associated with such efforts.

Method This cross-sectional study was conducted between September 2009 and June 2010. The authors used two-sample t tests and chi-square tests to compare the proportion of organizations with disparity-reducing activities between different organizational types (e.g., primary care versus subspecialty organizations, small [<1,000 members] versus large [>5,000 members]). Inclusion criteria required physician organizations to be (1) focused on physicians, (2) national in scope, and (3) membership based.

Results The number of activities per organization ranged from 0 to 22. Approximately half (53%) of organizations had 0 or 1 disparity-reducing activities. Organizational characteristics associated with having at least 1 disparity-reducing effort included membership size (88% of large groups versus 58% of small groups had at least 1 activity; P = .004) and the presence of a health disparities committee (95% versus 59%; P < .001). Primary care (versus subspecialty) organizations and racial/ethnic minority physician organizations were more likely to have disparity-reducing efforts, although findings were not statistically significant. Common themes addressed by activities were health care access, health care disparities, workforce diversity, and language barriers. Common strategies included education of physicians/trainees and patients/general public, position statements, and advocacy.

Conclusions Despite the national priority to eliminate health disparities, more than half of national physician organizations are doing little to address this problem. Primary care and minority physician organizations, and those with disparities committees, may provide leadership to extend the scope of disparity-reduction efforts.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

Dr. Peek is assistant professor, Section of General Internal Medicine, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and faculty member, Diabetes Research and Training Center, Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research, Center for Health and the Social Sciences, and Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Ms. Wilson is a medical student, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Bussey-Jones is associate professor, Section of General Internal Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Lypson is associate professor, University of Michigan Health System, assistant dean of graduate medical education, and interim associate dean for Diversity and Career Development, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dr. Cordasco is assistant professor-in-residence, Veterans’ Administration (VA) Greater Los Angeles Health System and David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California, with an adjunct appointment at RAND Health, Santa Monica, California.

Dr. Jacobs is associate professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin.

Dr. Bright, at the time of this study, was associate professor, Department of Medicine and Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina.

Dr. Brown is associate professor, Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California.

Editor’s Note: Commentaries on this article by C. Bright, J. Madara, and D. Kirch, M. Nivet, and A. Berlin appear on pages 684, 687, and 689.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Peek, University of Chicago, Section of General Internal Medicine, 5841 S. Maryland, MC 2007, Chicago, IL 60637; telephone: (773) 702-2083; fax: (773) 834-2238; e-mail:

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges