KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Race Plays Role In Diagnosis And Treatment

CNN reports that African Americans and whites are treated differently by doctors. "While it's extremely difficult to tell in any given situation how much race -- consciously or unconsciously -- plays a role in a doctor's decision making, multiple studies over several decades have found doctors make different decisions for black patients and white patients even when they have the same medical problems and the same insurance."

For example, "In a study conducted in 2007, Harvard researchers showed doctors a vignette about a 50-year-old man with chest pain who arrived at the emergency room, where an EKG showed he'd had a heart attack. Sometimes the researchers paired the medical history with a photo of black man and other times with a photo of a white man. The doctors were significantly more likely to recommend lifesaving drugs when they thought the patient was white than when they thought the patient was black" (Cohen, 7/23). 

In other news, "recently released statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that minority groups experience obesity at even greater levels than their white counterparts," The Milwaukee Health Examiner/Examiner reports. "According to the July 17 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, blacks have a 51 percent greater prevalence of obesity than whites. Hispanics also experience a greater percentage of obesity than whites with a 21 percent higher prevalence, according to the CDC publication." One possible explanation is that "in many cases these populations do not have adequate access to health information and services. Minority populations with high levels of obesity tend to live in areas where there is limited access to recreational activities, few options for healthy foods and lower levels of health education." In addition, "geography appears to have a significant impact on minority obesity rates" for blacks, whites and Hispanics (Koshuta, 7/23).

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