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Ethnic aged discrimination and disparities in health and social care: A question of social justice

Authors

  • Megan-Jane Johnstone,

    1. Division of Nursing and Midwifery, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University – Bundoora West Campus, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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  • Olga Kanitsaki

    1. Division of Nursing and Midwifery, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University – Bundoora West Campus, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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  • As of 1 September 2008, authors’ affiliation will change to School of Nursing, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Vic 3125, Melbourne, Australia.

Correspondence to: Professor Megan-Jane Johnstone, Division of Nursing and Midwifery, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University. Email: megan.johnstone@rmit.edu.au

Abstract

Older overseas-born Australians of diverse cultural and language backgrounds experience significant disparities in their health and social care needs and support systems. Despite being identified as a ‘special needs’ group, the ethnic aged in Australia are generally underserved by local health and social care services, experience unequal burdens of disease and encounter cultural and language barriers to accessing appropriate health and social care compared to the average Australian-born population. While a range of causes have been suggested to explain these disparities, rarely has the possibility of cultural racism been considered. In this article, it is suggested that cultural racism be named as a possible cause of ethnic aged disparities and disadvantage in health and social care. It is further suggested that unless cultural racism is named as a structural mechanism by which ethnic aged disparities in health and social care have been created and maintained, redressing them will remain difficult.

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