How the U.S. Military Has Minimized Racial Health Care Disparities

Report From Penn’s 2019 Martin Luther King Health Equity Symposium

By Hoag Levins

Originally published by the LDI Health Economist
Photo of Dr. Jonathan Woodson by Hoag Levins
Photo and caption by Hoag Levins

Jonathan Woodson, MD (above), the former top medical official in the U.S. Department of Defense, was the keynote speaker at the 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr., Health Equity Symposium presented by the University of Pennsylvania’s Office of Inclusion & Diversity. The Military Health System (MHS) that Woodson ran for six years provides health care services to more than nine million active and retired military personnel and their families. The country- and globe-spanning network of health care delivery services and facilities on U.S. bases is an “equal access” system, or the military equivalent of universal health care.

Woodson’s presentation focused on recent studies conducted by the Murtha Cancer Center and the National Military Medical Center of various kinds of cancer care throughout the MHS system. He said the research found almost no disparities in access, treatment or outcomes between white and non-white patients — a stark difference from the high levels of disparities in health care measures throughout the U.S. civilian health care system.

“These findings have caused the Murtha Cancer Center to conclude that equal access to care for all persons, such as in the case of the Military Health System, is the key to maximizing positive, cancer-related outcomes in all patients regardless of ethnicity and race,” said Woodson who is currently Director of the Institute for Health System Information & Policy at Boston University. He also holds joint appointments there as Professor of Surgery at the School of Medicine and Professor of Health Law, Policy, and Management at the School of Public Health.

Continue reading at the LDI Health Economist.

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