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Arthritis Disability More Likely in Older Blacks, Hispanics
July 30, 2007
Among older Americans with arthritis, blacks and Hispanics are twice as
likely as whites to have a disability that interferes with daily
living, new research shows.
Much of this disparity is due to differences in access to health care
and personal health status, say researchers at the Northwestern
University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
They examined data from the 1998-2004 Health and Retirement Study, a
national study of older Americans who are not living in health care
facilities. They analyzed health and lifestyle data from almost 7,300
respondents who reported arthritis but did not have a disability at the
beginning of the six-year study. The group was 85.5 percent whites, 9.3
percent blacks, 2.4 percent Spanish-speaking Hispanics and 2.9 percent
Disability was defined as an inability to perform at least one task in
the activities of daily living: dressing, walking across a room,
getting in or out of bed, bathing, eating and going to the bathroom.
The researchers report in the August edition of Arthritis Care &
Research that one out of six participants had difficulty performing at
least one of those daily tasks by the end of the study. Blacks and
Hispanics who spoke Spanish were almost twice as likely to report a
disability than whites; Hispanics who spoke English had rates of
disability that were similar to whites.
The researchers divided Hispanics according to language because of the
possible impact that speaking English might have on a person's ability
to understand health information and seek out care.
The researchers found that access to medical care and other health
conditions accounted for much of the difference in disability rates.
They report that, in addition to having fewer economic resources,
minorities were more likely to be uninsured or rely on Medicaid
coverage, both of which may result in a lower quality of care or
difficulty finding care.
The team also found that some of the differences in
disability rates could be attributed to other chronic health
conditions, physical limitations such as an inability to walk several
blocks, and health behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and
"At the clinical level, not only should treatment of
co-morbid conditions be considered, but also disease prevention,
prevention and treatment of functional limitations, and promotion of
healthy behaviors should be a priority for all patients with arthritis
to prevent the development of disability," the authors said in a
prepared statement. Future research should be directed at how to more
effectively deliver such programs especially to minority populations.
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