By Maggie Hammond
After years spent struggling to adapt and update the arcane infrastructure relied upon by medical providers, the healthcare sector has started to explode with dozens of promising new startups and hundreds of millions of dollars of new funding invested. Coming alongside the disruptions on the privatized side of the medical industry, huge shifts following the implementation of portions of the Affordable Care Act are causing some of the biggest changes in modern healthcare to date. Unfortunately, despite significant growth in what is already a multi-billion dollar industry that employs millions, there remains a huge amount of ethnic disparity.
In the United States of America, Latinos make up the largest minority group and yet in many careers they are represented well below their population share. Despite making up nearly of a fifth of all people in the US, less than 5% of registered nurses are of Latino heritage. While this is not the only issue facing the nursing industry – a field that despite almost constantly needing more trained workers has struggled to recruit outside of a very narrow demographic – it has recently come into focus as a more significant issue with the drive to provide professional care to all individuals that need it.
A very important piece of information that is frequently overlooked is that of everyone in the US that identifies as Latino, more than half of them are millennials. Where many people that immigrated to the United States may not have been able to attend higher education, a larger and larger group has been raised in the American educational system and is beginning to close many of the divides that have defined previous generations. While it does appear that the statistical differences are driving towards normalization, income inequality still remains a significant issue that disproportionately affects minority groups looking to obtain a collegiate education.
In an attempt to answer this disparity, many colleges like the University of Arizona have taken to offering programs like their public health degree online, so that anyone, no matter what their situation is can have access to a nationally recognized and useful qualification. Online programs are far more flexible for individuals that are already engaged in the workforce and unable to leave for months at a time. Additionally, in an effort to drive down ethnic disparity while also working to eliminate the employee shortage in the healthcare sector, some schools go so far as to provide the opportunity to earn a masters in public health online. This allows individuals obtain both baccalaureate and master’s degrees on their own schedule, and to immediately enter a field that desperately needs their help.
Economic inequality and underrepresentation are not things that can be solved in a few short years. All we can do is push for equality and strive to provide opportunities for success to everyone regardless of nationality or background. The more backgrounds that we have in the medical sector, the better and more comprehensive the care we can provide. Healthcare requires an understanding of the people it serves deeper than any other field, and in order to do that, we need to do everything we can to bring in educated professionals from all walks of life.
Maggie Hammond is a retired nurse and freelance writer. An advocate for public health and nursing qualifications, she feels passionate about raising awareness of the current strain on public health organizations.