By Kirstin Rizk
It’s Black History Month, the time we both reflect on the history of racism and oppression, but also focus on the persisting effect of that past. Today, there are still staggering gaps in healthcare outcomes affecting African Americans. For example, African Americans are at a significantly higher risk than non-Hispanic whites for several diseases, including asthma1, diabetes2, high blood pressure3, heart failure4 and peripheral artery disease5, among many others. In the field of Modern Vascular’s expertise, the treatment of vascular disease in the legs and feet, these statistics stand out:
According to the Centers for Disease Control6:
- In 2018, non-Hispanic blacks were twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes.
- In 2017, non-Hispanic blacks were 3.2 times more likely to be diagnosed with end stage renal disease as compared to non-Hispanic whites.
And lifetime risk (based on an 80-year lifespan) of peripheral arterial disease was estimated at ≈19% in White Americans, 22% in Hispanic Americans, and 30% in Black Americans.
Not only that, but African Americans develop these diseases at younger ages than White Americans do.
This is perhaps a reason that Black Americans typically receive treatment later in the disease process than white Americans. A result of this, among other factors, is that the rate of leg amputation is four times greater in Black Americans than white Americans.7
Pew Research Center surveyed Black Americans about progress in health outcomes for their community and found that 47% say health outcomes for Black people have improved over the past 20 years, while 31% think they’ve stayed about the same and 20% say they’ve gotten worse.8
63% stated that less access to quality medical care where they live is a major reason for worse health outcomes.
Many steps must be taken toward bridging the gap in health outcomes for minorities such as African Americans. Because African Americans often develop these diseases at younger ages, some healthcare providers may dismiss Black patient’s symptoms or brush off their complaints. Starting treatment at a later point in the disease process means it’s harder to treat. This is a major reason why Black Americans are four times more likely to undergo amputation of a leg. If patients had not been dismissed and had started management of their disease earlier in the disease process, it is likely the limb could have been saved. How likely? Well, the World Health Organization believes that up to 85% of diabetic leg amputations are preventable.9
Modern Vascular healthcare providers have made a commitment to listen to their patients, and feel that this simple step makes a huge difference toward catching disease early and intervening before their disease gets serious.
Modern Vascular physicians agree that it is extremely important to get a second opinion when recommended for an amputation, but this recommendation is even more important for patients of minority groups. Limb salvage treatment should almost always be pursued prior to amputation, and the statistics above emphasize why this is even more important for Black patients.
Learn more about health equity here.
Learn about the Live to the Beat Campaign by the CDC Foundation and Million Hearts® which provides resources for Black adults to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease.