Racial Disparities Essay

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Overcoming racial disparities in pain management: a literature review Kathleen O’Brien, RN November 25, 2011 The under treatment of pain in the United States is a growing public health crisis, especially among the underserved populations, including ethnic minorities and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane.” According to the National Institutes of Health, health disparities are defined as “differences, in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.” Pain is widely recognized as an under treated health problem in the United States. However, a review of current literature reveals extensive gaps in pain management among minority populations, with minorities receiving less care for pain than whites. With the growing diverse U.S. population, an urgent need has arisen to eliminate health disparities. Patients have the right to appropriate assessment and treatment of their pain without regard to race or other factors. Research reveals that while national attention has been increasingly focused on health disparities, less attention has been given to the inequities in pain management (Drewecki, Moore, & Ward, 2011). Pain is a complex process caused by noxious sensory stimuli or neuropathologoical mechanisms (Closs, 2005). Comfort is a balance of the most basic physiological, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Wellness is an impossible goal to reach without some level of comfort. Pain is a feeling of distress and it transpires at the physical, psychological and spiritual levels. Pain is highlighted as significant but often under treated problem among minorities (Ezenwa, Ameringer, & Ward,

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