‘Much more research needed into discrimination in healthcare’

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Discrimination occurs in healthcare, but too little research has been done into it. As a result, there is no good insight into how often it occurs and on what grounds. Action plans are also not evidence-based.

This is the conclusion of researchers from the Verwey-Jonker Institute and Movisie after a literature study commissioned by the Ministry of VWS into discrimination in healthcare (curative care, long-term care, social support and client support) and in sports. More research is therefore needed, say the researchers.

Knowledge fragmented

According to the researchers, there is a lack of concrete figures about how often discrimination occurs, in what form and on what grounds, in almost all domains of healthcare. This applies in particular to discrimination experienced by patients. Figures are known about discrimination experienced by professionals, but they do not indicate the grounds for discrimination. The researchers also note that knowledge about discrimination is often fragmented and not always clearly visible, which hinders effective combating. This is because discrimination and racism are often not mentioned by name, but are referred to with terms such as ‘inclusion’ and ‘positive culture’.

The researchers also note that there are major differences in which grounds for discrimination have been investigated and which have not. For example, discrimination on the grounds of disability, religion, sex and gender are the least investigated. Research that has been done usually deals with discrimination on the basis of origin or sexual preference. Often the research is not about discrimination, but about whether the care is appropriate for these patients.

Equal opportunities

There is also little insight into the prevalence of patients who refuse healthcare professionals, discrimination between patients, discrimination at the institutional level and how healthcare institutions deal with discrimination. It should also be investigated to what extent healthcare professionals themselves suffer from (unconscious) prejudices and stereotypes and to what extent this influences healthcare.

Minister Conny Helder of Long-term Care and Sport will respond substantively to the results of the study before the summer, she says in a letter to the House of Representatives. She says it is important that the government and the healthcare sector are committed to promoting equal opportunities and combating discrimination.

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