Racial Disparities for Pts With Spina Bifida or Cerebral Palsy

Black and Hispanic adults with spina bifida or cerebral palsy are less likely to attend wellness visits than are White adults with the same pediatric-onset disabilities, a new study finds.

Black adults also had lower odds of having a bone density screening, compared with White adults. Plus, comorbidities were highest among the Black patients, according to the paper, which was published in Annals of Family Medicine.

Elham Mahmoudi, PhD, and her coauthors examined private insurance claims from 11,635 patients with cerebral palsy (CP) or spina bifida over ten years from 2007 to 2017. The researchers analyzed comorbidities and compared the rates of different psychological, cardiometabolic, and musculoskeletal conditions among these patients.

Only 23% of Hispanic participants and 18% of Black participants attended an annual wellness visit, compared with 32% of the White participants.

Only 1% of Black and 2% of White participants received any bone density screening (odds ratio = 0.54, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.31-0.95), a service that is essential for catching a patient’s potential risk for osteoporosis and fractures.

According to the researchers, patients accessed services such as bone density scans, cholesterol assessments, diabetes screenings, and annual wellness visits less than recommended for people with those chronic conditions.

“People with spina bifida and cerebral palsy have complex care needs. We know through our work that chronic conditions are much higher among them compared with adults without disabilities,” Mahmoudi, associate professor in the department of family medicine at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, said in an interview. “I was surprised to see even with private insurance, the rate of using preventative services is so low among White people and minority populations.”

Comorbidities Highest in Black Participants

Black adults had the highest comorbidity score of 2.5, and Hispanic adults had the lowest comorbidity score of 1.8. For White adults in the study, the comorbidity score was 2.0.

Osteoporosis, a common concern for people with spina bifida or cerebral palsy, was detected in around 4% of all participants. Osteoarthritis was detected in 13.38% of Black participants, versus 8.53% of Hispanic participants and 11.09% of White participants.

Diabetes and hypertension were more common among Black participants than among Hispanic and White participants. The percentages of Black patients with hypertension and diabetes were 16.5% and 39.89%, respectively. Among the Hispanic and White adults, the percentages with hypertension were 22.3% and 28.2%, respectively, according to the paper.

Disparities in Access

Jamil Paden, racial and health equity manager at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, said getting access to literature, transportation, tables, chairs, weigh scales, and imaging equipment that accommodate the needs of people with disabilities are some of the biggest challenges for people with disabilities who are trying to receive care.

“It’s not a one size fits all, we have to recognize that if someone doesn’t see themselves in a particular place, then it makes it more challenging for them to feel comfortable speaking up and saying things about their health, which would prevent a person from saying something early on,” Paden said in an interview. “That particular issue will continue to grow and become more of a health risk, or health challenge down the line.”

Paden emphasized intersections between class, race, and circumstances which can, together, make health care less equitable for people with disabilities, especially in underserved communities and communities of color. He urged health care providers to distance their practices from a “one size fits all” approach to treatment and engage in their patients’ individual lives and communities.

“It’s not enough to just say, Hey, you have a disability. So let me treat your disability … You have to recognize that although a patient may have a dire diagnosis, they also are a person of color, and they have to navigate different aspects of life from their counterparts,” he said.

Mahmoudi said patient and provider understanding of the disability is often lacking. She recommended advocating for patients, noting that giving both patients and providers the tools to further educate themselves and apply that to their regular visits is a good first step.

“Just having access to a facility doesn’t mean they will get the services they need. Preventative services that are recommended for people with disabilities differ from the general population. Providers should be educated about that and the patient needs to be educated about that,” she added.

“Patients who do not approach clinicians get lost in the system. Maybe many facilities are not disability friendly, or they need health literacy. If they don’t know they are at risk for osteoporosis, for example, then they won’t ask,” Mahmoudi said.

The study was funded by The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. Mahmoudi and Paden report no relevant financial relationships.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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