The authors of the AHA statement analyzed racial and ethnic disparities in a large body of current scientific literature. And they found differences at every turn.
“We see disparities in every aspect of stroke care, from lack of awareness of stroke risk factors, and symptoms to delayed arrival to the emergency room and increased waiting time,” Salvador Cruz-Flores, MD, MPH, of St. Louis University, says in a news release. “These disparities continue throughout the spectrum of the delivery of care, from acute treatment to rehabilitation.”
Besides stroke risk factors, the statement notes that economic and social issues, including access to medical care and health insurance, also matter.
So do cultural and language barriers, and beliefs and attitudes. For example, the AHA notes that perception of or the actual presence of racial bias in the health care system may make a patient less likely to follow their doctor’s advice or stick with their medication and treatment.
“It is important for members of ethnic and racial minority groups to understand they are particularly predisposed to have risk factors for heart disease,” Cruz-Flores says. “They need to understand these diseases are preventable and treatable.”
Cruz-Flores says it is “striking that we are in the 21st century, with many advances in stroke care, yet we are still struggling to fix the differences that are present not only in the distribution of the disease but also in the level of care we provide to the different racial and ethnic groups.”
The statement appears in the July edition of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.