A Clean Bill of Health: AAMC Diversity Officer Says the Emphasis on Prevention and Wellness in the Health Care Reform Law Will Benefit Minorities

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Dr. Marc Nivet joined the Association of American Medical Colleges in June as the chief diversity officer, tasked with developing a strategic vision for AAMC's diversity efforts and overseeing programs designed to improve diversity in medical education and promote equity in health care. Here, Nivet talks about the benefit of health care reform to communities of color and his plans to work with historically Black medical schools.

Diverse: Why should African-Americans and other minorities pay particular attention to health care reform?

MN: Any national-level legislation that is going to impact the health and pocketbooks of all Americans deserves attention from all our communities, especially Black and Hispanic inner-city and rural communities. Health care reform has the potential to fundamentally change how we think about health and health care. We have an opportunity to think deeply about prevention and public health and bring those elements closer to the practice of medicine.

This reform represents an opportunity to frame success in terms of how many people we can keep healthy, rather than just basing it on the cost and success of interventions necessary when illness occurs. That said, the reality is that many minorities and individuals of lower socioeconomic status have gone extended periods without health care, meaning by the time they enter the system their illnesses have progressed to a point where care is more expensive than it need be.

The fundamental benefit of health care reform is the provision of some form of insurance to 32 million more Americans previously lacking coverage. The vast majority of the newly insured will be African-Americans and Hispanics. This extension of coverage, paired with incentives for the health care system to improve on wellness and prevention, is of particular relevance to minorities.

Diverse: Why do the vast majority of Americans, according to polls, oppose health care reform?

MN: There is clearly a misunderstanding of the intentions of health care reform. Objections seem to center around the perception that this legislation represents a new entitlement program that will run up as opposed to bring down the cost of health care. Unfortunately, the expansion of coverage to individuals of lower socioeconomic status has been misperceived as an attempt to right a historical wrong or create a new social program, when at its core it is about improving the quality and affordability of health care for everyone. …