Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Health Professions Career Awareness Program for Seventh- and Eighth-Grade African-American Students: A Pilot Study

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Health Professions Career Awareness Program for Seventh- and Eighth-Grade African-American Students: A Pilot Study

Article excerpt

This exploratory, cross-sectional study was designed to gauge the interest and health career choices of African-American students before high school and to determine their level of satisfaction with a health career awareness program. Over a three-year period, 133 seventh-grade students (47%) and eighth-grade students (53%) enrolled in a Southside Chicago Catholic school were recruited; 98% were AfricanAmerican. The students participated in a career awareness program, which consisted of lectures, video presentation, interactive discussion, and college campus visits. Each student completed a questionnaire that sought demographic information, health career choice, career preference, and level of satisfaction with the awareness program implemented. For career choice, 39% of the students selected "doctor" and dentist, 28% selected occupational therapy, 15% selected social work, 11% selected nursing, and 7% selected health information administration. The majority of the students (51%) were "very satisfied" and 49% were "satisfied" with the program that was implemented. We found no discernable difference in the health career interest and career choice of the study participants over the three-year period. Our findings reconfirmed a continuing limited level of awareness about allied health professions among African-American students before high school. Follow-up studies should expand the scope and contents of the awareness program to include other health professions, field trips, and mentoring by health care providers or health professional students. J Allied Health 2005; 34:236-243.

NATIONWIDE, there is an acute shortage of health care professionals.1 The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks several health professions among the 10 fastest-growing occupations. The higher educational institutions cannot produce enough health professionals to meet the demand of the nation's workforce. It is projected that the shortage of health professionals will continue to worsen as the demand for their services grows because of (1) technological advances in patient care that result in greater longevity, (2) the aging of the U.S. population and the increased number of elderly clients requiring health care, (3) chronic and emerging illness such as Parkinson's disease and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and (4) the aging of the health care workforce.2

The population of the United States has become significantly more racially and ethnically diverse in the past decade.3 Even though ethnic minorities constitute about 33% of the population, they represent <15% of the members of most health professions. For example, African-American people represent 12% of the population; however, only 2% of dentists and 1% of speech language pathologists are African-American. Similarly, the Hispanic/Latino group represents 11% of the population, but only 1% of nurses and 1% of dental hygienists are of Hispanic/Latino descent. Approximately 86.6% of all nurses are white, 4.9% are African-American, 3.7% are Asian/Pacific Islander, 2.0% are Hispanic/Latino, 0.5% are American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 1.2% are multiracial or other.2

The disparities in access and quality of heath care for African-American people and white people in the United States is well documented.4,5 One of the goals of Healthy People 2010 is the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities and the need to improve the quality and years of healthy life for all Americans.5 A report published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies revealed consistent evidence of significant disparity in the rates of medical procedures by race, after adjusting for the effects of insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions.4 A study by Bach et al.6 found that physicians treating African-American patients were less likely to be well trained and may have less access to critical clinical resources than physicians treating white patients.

The antidote for reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care includes the need to increase the number of minority health care professionals in the workforce, especially because they are more likely to serve in medically underserved communities. …

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