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Health Parity For All

May 16th, 2007  |  The Wind Beneath Our Wings: A Look at Nursing Research

Carrying on the theme of nursing research discussed in last week’s post by Kim McAllister, this column will focus on lessons learned while writing an issues paper to fulfill a nursing course requirement for my impending graduation. I chose the topic of Health Care Disparities because it is appalling to observe the discrimination in treatment and care among varying cultures and people of color in the United States. As I researched the topic, I found no lack of evidence to support my observations.

According to the CDC (2006):
African-American, American Indian, and Puerto Rican infants have higher death rates than white infants. In 2000, the black-to-white ratio in infant mortality was 2.5 (up from 2.4 in 1998).

African-American women are more than twice as likely to die of cervical cancer as are white women and are more likely to die of breast cancer than are women of any other racial or ethnic group.

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death for all racial and ethnic groups in the United States. In 2000, rates of death from diseases of the heart were 29 percent higher among African-American adults than among white adults, and death rates from stroke were 40 percent higher.

These statistics have even caused alarm in the Federal government. Healthy People 2010 has included the objective of eliminating health disparities among different segments of the population. Now, although Healthy People 2010 provides us with leading health indicators and objectives to follow and use to measure our success, a question remains: How do we as nurses help to eliminate those health care disparities among minority cultures?

Giddings (2005), a nurse researcher, claims there are three levels of self-consciousness that define how culturally competent a nurse is: acquired social consciousness, awakened social consciousness, and expanded social consciousness. It is simply not enough for nurses to remain silent witnesses to unjust acts and policies such as recruiting nurses from third-world countries to fill vacant positions in the United States, nor is it enough for nurses to monitor and scrutinize for such actions.

As a future nurse, I believe it is critical that nurses build on the actions of Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton, both who took political action and did not give up on their beliefs when they witnessed a disparity. Nurses must continue to embrace ethics and traditions of practicing social justice. If nurses could be the force behind the decline in health care disparities among minorities in America, that would be exciting, rewarding, and a way to fulfill the Nightingale Pledge.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2007). Eliminating Racial & Ethnic Health Disparities. Retrieved March 4, 2007, from

Giddings, L.S, (2005). A Theoretical Model of Social Consciousness. Advances in Nursing Science, 28(3), 224-239.

Healthy People 2010. (2005). Healthy People. Retrieved January 8, 2007, from

About Lisa Theisen
Lisa Theisen is a second-year nursing student attending Portland Community College. She graduates in June 2007 and plans to continue her education at Linfield College in Portland, Oregon. Lisa is a nurse activist and is a proud supporter of the campaign to establish an Office of the National Nurse. She enjoys walking Mulligan, her beautiful golden retriever-Chow Chow, on the trails of the Columbia River Gorge.

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