Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The other type of IBD is Crohn’s disease. Discussing bowel disorders is not always a simple conversation, particularly when discussing racial disparities in the treatment of these disorders. A 2016 study, published by the journal Inflammatory Bowel Disease, discovered that in the past 20 years IBD is on the increase in minority groups in the U.S..
Racial disparity in treatment of ulcerative colitis
The 2016 Inflammatory Bowel Disease journal study examined study results from over 40 past clinical research studies and found that Blacks with inflammatory bowel disease received different treatment than whites, including:
- Blacks were 25 to 50% less likely than Caucasians to undergo a surgical procedure called a colectomy for ulcerative colitis
- Minorities with Crohn’s disease were 30 to 70% less likely to have bowel surgery (resection) than Caucasians
- Blacks lacked access to specialized healthcare providers, affordable healthcare, and accommodations at work, resulting in disproportionately suffering pain and discomfort, compared to Caucasians
- Blacks experienced a higher rate of complications after surgery (including a higher incidence of sepsis (an infection in the blood) compared to other racial groups
There are many common myths surrounding inflammatory bowel disease—including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease— that minorities and other racial groups have adopted.
Myth #1 Blacks and Other Minorities Are Not at High Risk of IBD
A person of any racial group or ethnic background can be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The disease was once considered a condition that only affects European populations, but research demonstrates that minorities are also at risk.
Blacks are thought to have a slightly lower risk of IBD than white Americans, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Gastroenterology. However, Blacks are still at a significant risk for UC and other GI (gastrointestinal) conditions.
A study published by the Journal of Inflammatory Bowel Disease reported that there was a higher prevalence of ulcerative colitis among Hispanics than among Caucasians, and Crohn’s disease is causing more hospitalizations among the Asian population.
Myth #2 IBD is Embarrassing, it Should Be Kept Secret
A diagnosis of IBD can be considered taboo in some cultures. This often evolves from a societal stigma surrounding being diagnosed with a chronic disorder, such as ulcerative colitis. Often the stigma of a disorder like IBD is associated with a belief that it’s best to keep the disorder secret. IBD may require multiple surgeries, resulting in the need for an ostomy bag. There are support communities aimed at helping people with IBD manage their condition and cope with the emotions and misdirected feelings, such as shame, that often accompany the disorder.