Research has been carried out to understand the factors that elicit disparities in mental health. Some mentally handicapped persons including ethnic and racial groups, women, children, and individuals living in rural and urban dwellings constitute the category of minorities affected by such disparities. In this regard, the research process for the evaluation of the complex issues that account for the differences in living conditions, public perspectives, and medical care requires valid research methodologies. Therefore, the collection and analysis of data need to be effective to arrive at valid and reliable results. Various government departments have been committed to uncovering the factors for disparities, but the findings leave out some critical data domains. Efficient data collection would facilitate the implementation of policies that enhance mental health parity in various settings, thus improving the government’s medical services. This paper will focus on the issues that evoke mental health disparities. Additionally, the paper explores ways in which the data collection process on mental health research can be improved.
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Ethnic Disparities in Mental Health Treatment
Despite the extensive research on the topic of mental health disparities, the medical and health fraternity tends to disagree on the meaning of inequalities in the field. In this case, ethnic mental health disparities seem to induce conflicts due to the cultural diversity aspects of mental health patients. Ethnic disparities associated with mental health are characterized by differences in the quality of health care due to racial or cultural factors. Ethnic minorities in various societies experience poor health conditions and treatment due to the cultural and social constructions that include stereotyping and social exclusion (Nguyen-Feng, Beydoun, McShane, & Blando, 2014). Gaps in mental health care based on ethnicity are ascribed to the health status of the patients, hence the need for creating parity. For instance, in the US, African Americans are perceived to have poor health conditions and outcomes as compared to their white counterparts. Therefore, the treatment of mental disorders affecting African Americans tends to be compromised due to their ethnic affiliations and the perspectives of other social groups that may induce stigmatization (Nguyen-Feng et al., 2014).
The collection of data requires the researcher to reflect on identifying the issues responsible for mental health disparities. The following issues based on ethnicity or race need to be considered for improved data management systems when researching mental health disparities based on ethnic origin.
Bias and discrimination from the health care provider cause unfair treatment due to ethnic or race differences. Moreover, statistical discrimination is a cause for mental health treatment disparities whereby clinicians treat patients differently based on statistics attributed to disparate ethnic groups. Geographical differences may affect the quality of mental health care negatively due to resource allocation and the social exclusion of minority groups. Differences in health insurance cover among different ethnic groups are also attributed to inequalities in the provision of mental health services since minority communities lack adequate access to health policies (Safran et al., 2010). Therefore, it is essential for research on the topic to consider the responsible factors for the disparities in a bid to employ the appropriate data collection techniques that would enhance the realization of mental health parity.
How Government Officials can Improve Data Collection in Mental Health Disparities Research
To arrive at solutions that solve the health issues affecting citizens, government agencies ought to conduct comprehensive research on the problem. Regarding mental health problems, the collection of significant data domains based on the potential causes is essential. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the US has initiated various research programs to investigate the aspects of mental health disparities. The agency leads in its efforts towards the alleviation of the suffering caused by mental illnesses among diverse groups in the US. For example, the NHIM Strategic Plan for Research seeks to facilitate effective data management systems that would enhance purposeful and efficient research in the health area (Nguyen-Feng et al., 2014). The following research methodologies or strategies could be implemented for better data collection and management systems in mental health disparity research.
Community-Based Participatory Research Approach
This research approach would facilitate the collection of data from respondents of different ethnic backgrounds. The improvement of the findings from qualitative research techniques would be fostered through the enhancement of the research problem when the relevant parties are engaged actively. In this case, surveys would be conducted in various regions that constitute the mental illness through the administration of well-structured questionnaires. The collection of robust data, in this case, would be facilitated by engaging faith-based organizations (FBOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), communities, mental health practitioners, and other relevant parties in the community. The identification of ethnic and social issues like residential clustering, religion, and stereotyping after interviewing the participants would enrich the data collected to realize valid results and conclusions (Safran et al., 2010). The methodology ensures the collection of data from small and understudied ethnic populations, thus facilitating the understanding of the reasons for the mental health status and treatment disparities.
Focus Group Discussions
Government officials could also adopt research methods that embrace focus group discussions that seek to elucidate the underlying causes of mental health disparities. In this regard, the focus groups would comprise ethnic minorities that have been affected by mental disorders. The strategy facilitates the collection of significant data from the subjects in various groups. The interaction in the discussions should be guided by topical questions administered through group interviews. In this regard, the definition of the complexity associated with mental health disparities would be achieved through purposeful interactions that unveil areas that need to be addressed (Nguyen-Feng et al., 2014). Therefore, data based on issues like access to health insurance, the providers’ bias, and discrimination would be collected for government institutions to formulate policies that would restore parity in mental health conditions.
Supporting and Training Researchers to Conduct Adequate Research on Mental Health Disparities
Government agencies should be committed to the provision of support and training programs that aim at enhancing data management systems on mental health status and treatment across different ethnic groups. Communication with the stakeholders regarding the science of mental health issues needs to be delivered for the process to adopt objectivity, thus avoiding bias or prejudice. In this regard, cases of statistics discrimination would be curtailed, thus resulting in inequality of treatment due to findings that come from efficient data collection mechanisms.
Studying Diverse Populations
To enhance the data collection processes when studying aspects of mental health disparities, studying diverse cultures would be strategic for the collection of comprehensive data. The approach facilitates the collection of data representing different ethnic groups, thus providing information that fosters equity. Various sampling methods should be considered depending on the distribution of the subjects in the society that constitutes different races and ethnic groups. The approach enhances the understanding of the risks associated with mental health disparities to the public since policymakers strive for the attainment of equality in the administration of services. Additionally, data management systems would be facilitated by identifying the prevention and response to treatment across diverse cultures that constitute the ethnic minorities and majorities.
Furthermore, relevant domains of data would be gathered from studying diverse populations. Data based on age, gender, and economic background would facilitate a better understanding of the ethnic and racial issues regarding mental health differences. Therefore, the diverse populations would streamline the provision of data, which is essential for the development of personalized interventions and precision medicine in the delivery of mental health care services.
Interdisciplinary Collaborations and Partnerships
Research on mental health disparities could embrace the collaborations and partnerships from different stakeholders in the field. The data collection process would be improved by incorporating researchers from disciplines like biological, behavioral, medical, environmental, and social sciences. The interdisciplinary approach allows the application of different perspectives on the study thereby boosting the quality of data gathered, thus leading to better data management systems (Nguyen-Feng et al., 2014). The assessment of qualitative and quantitative data from various researchers facilitates the attainment of valid and reliable outcomes. Despite the effectiveness of a single disciplinary approach in the exploration of a particular problem, mental health disparity issues based on ethnicity and race require comprehensiveness that could be achieved through an interdisciplinary approach. Therefore, policymakers would adopt innovative solutions that would lead to the realization of mental health parity among the public.
The issue of mental health disparities has been researched extensively to find solutions that would foster equality in status and treatment among various groups including race, ethnicity, gender, age, women, and children. However, loopholes in the data collection strategies have subjected the studies to the lack of comprehensiveness, thus failing to address the issue adequately. The adoption of research methodologies like focus group discussions, community-based participatory approaches, selection of a diversified population, and collaborations and partnerships would prove effective. The adoption of the data management strategies would enhance the formulation of policies that aim at solving the disparity issues in mental health, thus resulting in happier and healthier citizens.
Nguyen-Feng, N., Beydoun, A., McShane, K., & Blando, J. (2014). Disparities in-hospital services utilization among patients with mental health issues: a statewide example examining insurance status and race factors from 1999-2010. Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice, 8(2), 92-104.
Safran, A., Mays, R., Huang, N., McCuan, R., Pham, K., Fisher, K., & Trachtenberg, A. (2010). Mental health disparities. American Journal of Public Health, 99(11), 1962–66.