In a finding that runs counter to most health disparities research, Johns Hopkins researchers say that while younger black trauma patients are significantly more likely than whites to die from their injuries, black trauma patients over the age of 65 are 20 percent less likely to do so.
A report on the research appears online May 28 in JAMA Surgery.
“We have long found it vexing that minority patients consistently do worse, even in treatment for trauma that seems to leave little room for bias,” says study leader Adil Haider, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “And although we still see the disparity in younger black patients, we were surprised to find in this study that older black trauma patients were more likely to survive their injuries.”
Haider speculates that one reason is that all patients over 65 have better access to health care because of Medicare eligibility, providing access to care that may “level the playing field.” Another possibility is that black patients have worse expected outcomes from diseases and trauma throughout life, creating a “healthy survivor bias” as they age.
“There are well-documented disparities in access to health care for younger black patients, so it is possible that black patients who make it to age 65 have potentially reached that age stronger and healthier than their white counterparts of a similar age,” says Johns Hopkins surgical resident Caitlin W. Hicks, M.D., M.S., a member of the research team. “This is an important finding in racial disparities research that we need to look into and learn from.” Continue>
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