Why Are Health Care Outcomes Different Based On Race?

09/08/05  Portland, Ore.

OHSU sponsors conference to explore solutions to health care disparities.

Hurricane Katrina has brought issues of race and poverty to the fore as Americans struggle to comprehend and respond to the devastation in Louisiana and other southern states. This heightened interest provides an opportunity to support solutions-oriented discussions of how these factors may shape access to and outcomes in health care.

As part of its broad goal to improve health care access, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) is sponsoring the Bridging the Gap Northwest Conference, to be held on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel. The conference is a one-day event designed to address health care disparities in minority and underserved populations in Oregon. All proceeds from the conference will go toward humanitarian aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"In light of the terrible tragedy in the Gulf states, I am confident that these compelling issues have taken on even greater importance in the minds of those who will attend. I anticipate that the conference atmosphere will be charged and exciting," said Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A, dean of the OHSU School of Medicine.

Conference events will shed light on and catalyze discussion of well-documented trends and data related to access and outcomes, such as: Among preschool children hospitalized for asthma, only 7 percent of African American and 2 percent of Hispanic children, compared with 21 percent of Caucasian children, were prescribed the routine medications that help to avoid hospitalization. African Americans are 13 percent less likely to undergo angioplasty and one-third less likely to undergo bypass surgery than Caucasians. American Indian and Alaska Natives are more than twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites of similar age. The five-year survival rate for endometrial cancer is 86 percent in Caucasians but only 54 percent in African Americans. These and similar statistics are compiled by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institutes of Health.

The Bridging the Gap Northwest Conference reflects OHSU's ongoing commitment to addressing issues of health care disparity and care for the underserved. This commitment is also realized through the OHSU Center for Health Disparities Research, which supports greater understanding of how poverty, discrimination and gender impact health care access, treatment and outcomes.

The Bridging the Gap Conference was jointly organized by OHSU School of Medicine students and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, which provided funding through a grant awarded to third-year OHSU medical student Barbara Alexander-Brown.

"As a minority medical student, I understand the responsibility that is afforded to me. I am part of the future of medicine, and if I am not willing to ask why and what we as a society are going to do about health care disparities, then who is going to address the issues that we are currently faced with?" said Brown.

Morning lectures are geared to health care providers, educators and policy advocates, although everyone is welcome to attend. The morning cost is $60 and the lectures are approved for 4.25 Category 1 AMA CME credits.

Afternoon health fair events are free and open to the public. These afternoon sessions include educational and wellness events, referrals, and gender and race-specific information on risks and outcomes for arthritis, heart disease, cancer, fitness, nutrition, stroke, depression and others. Free screenings for glucose, blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol and others will be offered along with free child care, a Kid's Program, free school supplies and information on childhood obesity, nutrition and fitness.

"A comprehensive program such as this addresses not only the educational needs of our students and health care work force, but should help stimulate conceptual thinking about innovative solutions and actually help launch transformational efforts," said Robertson.

WHEN:  Saturday, Sept. 17
Morning Session: 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Afternoon Workshops: noon - 5 p.m.

WHERE:  Lloyd Center Doubletree
1000 N.E. Multnomah
Portland, OR 97232