Aetna Inc. has established a committee to help develop programs to improve health care for members of minority groups.

The company has appointed a number of health care leaders as members of its Racial and Ethnic Equality Advisory Committee and asked them to help develop programs to advance the health of disadvantaged ethnic groups.

Aetna, Hartford, cites studies showing that patients with certain racial and ethnic backgrounds receive lower-quality health care than other patients, even when insurance status, income, age and severity of conditions are comparable.

Existing Aetna initiatives include a breast health initiative to identify African American and Hispanic women who have not obtained their annual screening mammograms; and studies with 2 academic institutions to examine barriers that may be contributing to disparity of outcomes of treatment for diabetes among African Americans and Latinos and hypertension among African Americans. Results from these studies are expected at the beginning of 2008.

The chair of the committee is Joseph Betancourt, director of the Disparities Solutions Center and senior scientist of the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Policy. Other members include Jill Berger, vice president, health and welfare, Marriott International, Bethesda, Md.; Jorge Girotti, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine; Linda Green, chief of ob-gyn, Northwest Regional Medical Center, Margate, Fla.; and Carol R. Horowitz, departments of health policy and medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.