Recent studies reveal concerning health disparities between Black and White communities
A neurological study on strokes calls for more effective interventions to remove inequalities by race.

On January 10, a new study from the medical journal Neurology highlighted the trends in stroke incidences among adults and the rates at which they occur among Black and white populations. 

The report’s guiding objective was “to evaluate past prevention efforts and to plan future interventions to eliminate existing inequities” by understanding current stroke trends. Stroke cases for individuals above 20 years of age in 17 acute care hospitals in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky from 1993 to 2015 were recorded. The data was then analyzed according to age, race, and stroke subtype.  

Over the 22-year study, rates of stroke incidence in both Black and white individuals decreased from 230 to 188 cases per 100,000 people—an unseen change in past studies. However, stroke incidence in the Black adult population was between 50 per cent and 80 per cent higher than in their White counterparts. After adjusting for age and sex, the stroke rate decreased from 215 to 170 per 100,000 in white adults. For Black adults, the stroke rate was 349 per 100,000 in 1993 and 311 per 100,000 in 2015.

The average age at which Black and White adults experience strokes has also decreased, but the study revealed the racial disparities in this change. In 2015, the average stroke white stroke patient was 70.6 years old, while the average Black stroke patient was just 61.7 years old: a nearly 10-year difference. 

Professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at Brown University, Tracy Madsen, and key author in the study considers such racial disparities “a major ongoing public health concern,” while speaking to U.S. News, and called for “concrete efforts to build more equitable means of stroke prevention and care.” 

Diabetes and hypertension increased in both racial populations but occurred at a higher rate in Black individuals throughout the study, with 87 per cent of individuals having hypertension and 43 per cent being diabetic, compared to 76 per cent and 30 per cent of White individuals. 

The study also aimed to investigate racial disparities in risk ratios by age. The age brackets of 20 to 34 and 35 to 44 showed the highest difference in stroke incidence between Black and white individuals, with the disparity becoming less apparent as age increased. The 75 to 84 and 85+ subgroups showed no significant racial disparities. 

The report also pointed to the racial disparities between Black and White adults that swell in younger age brackets, which caused researchers to emphasize the “urgent need for increased attention to systemic racism in the healthcare system, inequities in access to care, improved primary prevention efforts, and the need for increased attention to social determinants of health.”

In another study, Black women were found to be three to four times more likely due to pregnancy-related complications than White women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, inaccessible care and insufficient quality of care were driving factors of the disparity, rather than any sort of physical differences between women of both races. 

Ana Langer, Professor of the Practice of Public and Director of the Women and Health Initiative, thinks that a bigger issue is at risk—Black women are undervalued and not monitored the same way that white women are. Langer noted that Black women often get dismissed from hospitals when displaying symptoms, much more frequently than white women.

Several studies have reported and continue to report similar health disparities among Black and white communities. According to Langer, “It’s important to illustrate what’s happening and make the public aware because it can encourage the health establishment to take on this crisis much more seriously.”

Associate News Editor (Volume 50) — Samuel is a first-year student at UTM working towards an Economics degree. He previously worked with the Federation of Canadian Secondary Students as a writer in the Demystify Tribune and will be continuing his exploration into writing and journalism as an Associate Editor with The Medium. When he's not drawing graphs or outlining essays, Samuel can be found playing the piano and drums, working out, or critiquing film.



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