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Racial Disparities Seen in Emergency Asthma Care Needs

Regardless of disease severity, blacks are more likely to visit emergency departments or be hospitalized

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Among those with asthma, black patients are significantly more likely than white patients to visit the emergency department or be hospitalized regardless of disease severity, according to a report in the Sept. 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Sara E. Erickson, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues studied 678 patients -- including 154 blacks and 524 whites -- who were hospitalized for asthma between 2000 and 2004. The researchers interviewed the patients after discharge, gathered U.S. Census socioeconomic data on patient neighborhoods and conducted follow-up interviews after a median of 1.9 years.

Despite identifying no racial difference in asthma severity, physical health status or controller medication use, blacks were significantly more likely than whites to present at emergency departments for asthma symptoms (35.7 percent versus 21 percent) and be hospitalized for asthma (26.6 percent versus 15.3 percent).

"Further efforts to investigate the basis for these racial disparities should be undertaken, including closer examination of provider preferences or beliefs about caring for black patients, and more in-depth study of patient characteristics, including cultural beliefs and behaviors related to asthma," the authors conclude. "These findings also support genetic differences or predispositions, including beta2-adrenergic receptor polymorphisms, as a possible explanation for racial disparities in asthma outcomes."

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