Skip Navigation

Help Us Build a Diverse and Culturally Competent Health Care Workforce

By Jennifer Danek, M.D., Senior Director, Urban Universities for HEALTH


Urban Universities for HealthAcross the United States, more than 60 million Americans live in areas without enough health care providers—doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, physician assistants, translators, etc.—to meet the population’s needs. These health workforce shortages can be found in every state, from big cities to small towns to more rural areas. Primarily, however, they impact minority and low-income communities, where people are more likely to be uninsured and suffer disproportionately from chronic disease. Ultimately, the lack of access to care within these communities translates into worse health outcomes. Disparities in the access to and the quality of health care has a devastating impact on the collective health, wellness and life expectancy of people living in these communities, at a cost of billions of dollars in unnecessary health spending and lost productivity to the nation’s economy.

The Role of an Urban Academic Institution in Improving Health Equity

The Role of an Urban Academic Institution in Improving Health Equity

But there are steps that we can take to make sure these communities’ needs are met and a diverse and culturally competent health workforce is created to serve everyone in the U.S. regardless of where they live. At the Urban Universities for Health Equity through Alignment, Leadership, and Transformation (HEALTH)—a partnership between the American Academy of Medical Colleges, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, and the National Institutes of Health—we believe universities can play a large role in addressing health disparities by educating a workforce that meets their community’s needs. But they need more information to guide their decisions.

Our new Metrics Toolkit can help universities graduate health professionals that are diverse and culturally competent—providers that understand their patients’ needs and are equipped to address them. The toolkit is interactive and web-based, with the goal of helping universities measure their efforts in this area, while providing university leaders with evidence-based strategies, indicators and measures. The toolkit is customizable to fit each university’s mission and the unique needs of their community, and can help improve internal reporting to track their progress and build their capacity to collect data.

The Toolkit was launched recently via a webcast, which was attended by hundreds of university leaders, funding agencies, heads of health professions and higher education associations, and several other national stakeholders. The recording of the webcast is now available, and we encourage you to watch it and share with your colleagues. A three-minute YouTube video is also available for people who want to learn more about the project.

The site also includes case studies from the Urban Universities for HEALTH demonstration sites to highlight best practices using the strategies and data in the toolkit. For instance, we’ve profiled efforts at the University of Cincinnati and Cleveland State University and Northeast Ohio Medical University, which highlight strategies the institutions used to meet their diversity goals through the admissions process. We also explore an initiative at SUNY Downstate Medical Center to prepare multilingual providers for the diverse community of new Americans that it serves in Brooklyn, New York, and efforts by the University of New Mexico to use the legislative process to improve health workforce data collection across the state.

Finally, I encourage anyone who is interested in addressing health care disparities to share the Metrics Toolkit with your colleagues. And if you have any questions about how it can be used to build a diverse and culturally competent health care workforce, feel free to contact us at info@urbanuniversitiesforhealth.org. By working together, collecting needed information and sharing best practices, we can ensure that the health needs of all Americans—regardless of race/ethnicity, primary language, location, or socioeconomic status—are met and addressed fully.

Comments: 0 | Reply

Return to Current Blog