To understand the causal mechanisms of disparities in health care, it is critical to identify the relative effects of patient, provider, system characteristics and of clinician-patient interactions. A decrease in disparities should be linked to improved quality of care, with specific research focused on effective communication, health literacy assessment, physician bias, social determinants of health, among others.
Addressing issues of diversity and disparities requires relevant data at both local and national levels. With such information, institutions can adapt their services and allocate resources to address the specific needs of communities and reduce disparities in health care. Methodological challenges when conducting studies among diverse patient populations include selection bias, high study drop-out rates and language barriers. Interdisciplinary research teams should incorporate social epidemiologists, statisticians, socio-anthropologists, physicians and nurses.
Topics of particular interest include: economic factors affecting health care utilization; unconscious bias among health care professionals; the impact of cultural competence training on health care delivery; the impact of case management teams on health care for vulnerable population groups; and specific health related topics like child obesity and female genital mutilation. Clinical and health service research should include and be relevant for typically understudied groups such as migrants and other vulnerable populations.