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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already had a huge impact on the health of millions of Americans. While most of the attention has been paid on the ACA’s provisions that expand access to health care, the law also opens doors for many more Americans in underserved communities to pursue careers in the health industry.

The ACA includes funds for scholarships and student loan repayment to incentivize medical providers to work in areas that do not have enough health professionals. By alleviating some of the financial burden for medical school, it will hopefully provide opportunities for low-income and communities of color to pursue a career in the health field. The ACA also includes several other provisions aimed at health care workforce development that could increase diversity in the industry.

This could have a tremendous impact on California’s communities of color, who are often underrepresented in the health care industry. The following statistics show that while Asians are well-represented in California’s health industry, the number of Latino physicians falls woefully below their proportion of the population:

  • Latinos make up 32% of California’s population, but only 3% of nonfederal physicians.
  • Asians make up 11% of California’s population, and 17% of nonfederal physicians.
  • Native Americans and Alaska Natives make up .5% of California’s population, but 0% of nonfederal physicians.
  • African Americans make up 6% of California’s population, but only 2% of nonfederal physicians.

A commitment to health workforce diversity on the national level would help reduce these disparities. For a more detailed description of how the ACA affects workforce diversity, check out Ignatius Bau’s bulletin on CPEHN’s website.

Ellen Wu is the Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.


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