Inequity within the American healthcare system is an unfortunate reality faced by healthcare providers and their patients. A new course series offered by Michigan Online aims to provide education, training and skill-building to the frontline and other physical and mental health workers best positioned to improve the system and lessen inequities in healthcare.

Minal Patel
Minal Patel, Associate Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education.

Not only is the training essential, said Minal Patel, an associate professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, but it’s highly sought after but not often provided during people’s clinical training.

The online course series “Addressing Racial Health Inequity in Healthcare” features three courses on the history and causes of racial inequity in health care and approaches to address these entrenched issues. A final project and course certificate also allows learners to leverage this expertise in their practice.

“I am personally a fan of documentary film as a learning medium, and I think they can promote deep learning. I wanted this course series to feel like that experience for learners. Through a wide range of mediums and disciplinary perspectives, the series provides stories, real case examples, expert interviews, podcasts, and conversations around various topics that are covered. The combination of facts, data, and real experience and impact bring each topic together,” Minal said.

Enroll Now | Addressing Racial Inequity in Healthcare

The online course series is oriented around healthcare delivery to address a core mission of the public health field: reducing racial and ethnic health disparities. Because U.S. healthcare is an amalgamation of policy, insurance, and hospital systems, inequity is implicitly built-in and difficult to address, Patel said. That is why Patel wanted the courses to present potential actions and interventions for those dealing with patients and clients every day. They are the people, Patel said, who are most able to address these inequities for the people they serve.

“For existing professionals who have not received a formal education in racial health inequity, the courses are framed to provide the basics or 101, including terminology and history. The courses essentially answer the following questions for a learner: Why are there racial inequities in healthcare and how did they happen? What drives racial equities in healthcare? What are steps we can take to achieve racial equity in healthcare? The courses provide a wide range of mediums to engage with the content including short videos, interviews, readings from a wide variety of sources and disciplines, and podcasts,” Minal said.

“A history of unequal treatment in the U.S.”

Patel designed the course series to provide learners with a more thorough understanding of systemic complexity found in the healthcare system. The first course, “History of Racial Inequity in Healthcare,” equips learners with a toolkit of concepts and definitions about health equity and race in America. These help learners understand the multivariable U.S. health insurance system and how the design and implementation contribute to differential health outcomes for racial groups.

Educator Spotlight | Minal R. Patel Talks Inequity in Healthcare, ‘Unequal Treatment,’ and Goals for Learners of her new Online Course

“My goal as I designed the courses was to give learners a deeper and comprehensive understanding of how racial inequity persists in healthcare. Racial inequity that exists in healthcare was borne out of the racial inequity that has persisted throughout U.S. history. In course one, we needed to start with the building blocks of what race and racism actually are, the origins of healthcare and healthcare access, and how racism in America and healthcare intersected. This then makes it a little more clear for a learner to understand the main drivers of racial inequities. And we need to understand the main drivers in order to better pinpoint where we need to concentrate our efforts to achieve racial equity in healthcare,” Minal said.

Other advanced topics include “Access and Professional Representation in Healthcare” and “History of Resilience in Healthcare.” In the former, learners consider those typically excluded from other sectors of society and draw parallels to the healthcare field. The latter topic examines the tactics employed by those same marginalized communities to build their own health solutions in times when the system has failed to serve them.

“How our health insurance system contributes to racial inequities today”

The second course, “Causes of Racial Inequity in Healthcare,” surveys the critical drivers of racial inequities in healthcare so learners can better understand how system design translates to outcomes in practice. These include the financing of hospitals and the provision of public health insurance; geographic access to healthcare; minority groups’ mistrust of healthcare due to historical mistreatment by practitioners; and discrimination as it appears in diagnosis mechanisms and treatment patterns. Each dimension of public health administration helps to paint a larger picture of national systems that perpetuate racial bias and amplify discrimination.

“Leveraging healthcare system and community partnerships to address access to care”

The final course posits solutions to lasting healthcare inequity. Taking different perspectives on how to level the playing field, this lecture series considers a community health center model, policies and laws, provider interventions, data collection, and the role of reparations in approaches to healthcare. “Achieving Health Equity in Healthcare” assesses various programs through a critical lens so that practitioners may reduce differences as they appear in practice. This course is solution-oriented, providing a framework for evaluating the multiple stakeholders to achieve anti-racist, equalizing health outcomes. Ultimately, there is no single answer: community organizing and legal remedies alike are considered in the conclusion of this specialization.

“As a behavioral scientist in my discipline, considering the social ecological approach to intervention is considered optimal in addressing complex problems, including issues like racial inequity in healthcare. This requires intervening on multiple levels of influence. The variety of potential solutions provided in course three considers just that. Many people have been studying and addressing the issue of racial inequity in healthcare from multiple angles: law and policy, to systems level changes, to interpersonal interactions. The challenges and opportunities with various approaches are known. My goal was to present this in a way that is accessible to a wide range of learners.”

Potential learners include:

  • Potential applicants to health professional and health sciences training programs
  • Students and trainees at all levels in health professional training programs
  • Practicing healthcare professionals that would like to better serve a diverse patient population and promote and support a diverse healthcare workforce
  • Practicing healthcare professionals mandated to do any sort of continuing education on racial inequities in healthcare
  • Internationally-trained healthcare professionals or trainees interested in working in or practicing in healthcare in the U.S.
  • Prospective students, current students, trainees, and professionals who work in healthcare or a field or organization that serves or collaborates with healthcare
  • Workers and professionals at all levels who work within healthcare
  • General public interested in racial inequity as it pertains to healthcare

“The volume of everyday citizens, trainees, professionals, and industry leaders who are demanding change lends support that an appetite is there to want to learn more in order to pave a different future path,” Minal said.

Learn more about and enroll in the “Addressing Racial Health Inequity in Healthcare specialization via Michigan Online.