(BlackDoctor.org) — There is an urgent need for more education and research to address the fact that minority women are disproportionately impacted by the autoimmune disease lupus, according to an expert panel speaking at the roundtable forum, “Racial Disparities in Lupus: Strategies for Intervention in Minority Communities,” sponsored by the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, as part of the 7th International Congress on S.L.E. and Related Conditions.
In conjunction with the event, Benjamin Chu, MD, MPH, President of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), presented a proclamation from the Mayor’s Office at Gracie Mansion calling for more attention to lupus as a serious health threat to women. Congressman Charles B. Rangel, 15th Congressional District, New York, ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee and dean of the New York Congressional Delegation, offered welcoming remarks and commented on the issues of the Forum.
“This Forum kicks off a year-long campaign in which New York City health organizations and lupus organizations are joining forces to raise awareness and understanding of lupus and to encourage early detection, particularly in minority women,” said Margaret Dowd, Executive Director, S.L.E. Lupus Foundation, one of the country’s leading lupus organizations with headquarters in New York and Los Angeles.
“There is mounting evidence that Hispanic and African American women have a higher incidence of lupus, more serious complications and higher mortality rates,” noted John D. Reveille, MD, Director, Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunogenetics, University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center.
“Lupus is one of Americas’ least-recognized diseases in terms of public awareness and medical attention in proportion to the number of people it affects and its severity.” Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder that primarily attacks women of childbearing age and can affect virtually any organ of the body.
The body’s immune system, which normally functions to protect against foreign invaders, becomes hyperactive, forming antibodies that attack normal tissues and organs. It is estimated that approximately 1-1.5 million Americans may have lupus.
Females are at greatest risk; 90% of Americans with lupus are women. The ongoing NIH study, LUMINA (Lupus in Minorities: Nature versus Nurture), which began in 1993, found that Hispanic and African American patients tend to develop lupus earlier in life, experience greater disease activity and more severe disease than Caucasians.