Arthritis hits African Americans, Latinos hardest

Arthritis hobbles millions in U.S.

Although the overall prevalence of arthritis among African Americans and Latinos is lower than among whites, the impact of the disease on these communities is worse. As with racial and ethnic health inequities in other diseases, the increased suffering from arthritis among African Americans and Latinos likely results from unequal access to clinical services and other social inequities.

In a recent study of population differences in the prevalence and effects of arthritis in the United States, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed data from the 2002, 2003, and 2006 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The NHIS is an in-person, nationally representative survey of U.S. civilian, non-institutionalized adults. The CDC researchers used data from nearly 86,000 survey respondents. They found that the age-adjusted prevalence of arthritis in the United States is 21%. Among whites the prevalence is 22.3%; while among African Americans it’s 21.8%. Among Latinos the prevalence is 15.6%. Native Americans and Alaska Natives have the highest prevalence at 28.6%; whereas Asians and Pacific Islanders have the lowest prevalence at 10.6%. The difference for African Americans does not reach statistical significance; however, the prevalence of arthritis among Latinos and Asians/Pacific Islanders is significantly lower than whites, and the prevalence among Native Americans and Alaska Natives is significantly higher.

However, for all these peoples of color, the burden of morbidity from this disease is worse than it is for whites. In the overall population of adults with arthritis, 38% report limitation of activity, 31% report work limitation, and 26% report severe joint pain. Complaints of work and activity limitation and severe joint pain were significantly higher among African Americans and Latinos. Even after adjusting for age, sex, and body mass index, African Americans and Latinos are about 1.3 times as likely as whites to have activity limitation, nearly 1.7 times as likely as whites to have work limitation, and nearly 1.9 times as likely as whites to have severe joint pain.

African Americans and Latinos both have markedly decreased access to health care compared to whites. Untreated arthritis would lead to increased symptoms, such as interference with activities of daily living and work, as well as increased joint pain. A significant body of research shows that physicians and other health care providers undertreat pain in minority communities. Providing universal health coverage and culturally proficient care would help reduce the racial and ethnic inequities in arthritis.

Thursday, June 10th, 2010 at 09:37