Policies, pills, and political will: a critique of policies to improve the health status of ethnic minorities.
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The health status of the UK's Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, and East African minorities is significantly poorer than that of the white population. Improvements in the health experiences of these minorities requires more than initiatives within the traditional sphere of health services; needed is the political will to eradicate inequalities in areas such as poverty, unemployment, and education that impact on health status. To date, efforts to improve the health of Asians in the UK have focused on health education, with an emphasis on culture and victim-blaming rather than social circumstances. Racism within the National Health Service (NHS) affects virtually all blacks, including Asians, and such prejudice and stereotyping has an adverse effect on service delivery. This racism also affects minority employees of the NHS and medical students. The health services need to drive out racial discrimination from service delivery and employment. Health professionals need to raise awareness of political, social, economic, and environmental determinants of health. To dispel false notions of biological determinism, research on the health of minorities needs to be conducted in the context of their disadvantaged status. Finally, health professionals need to speak out against racial discrimination that keeps Asians and other ethnic minorities in low standards of health and social existence.