Home Biomedical research Headaches are largely outsourced among racial and socio-economic groups

Headaches are largely outsourced among racial and socio-economic groups

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Newswise – DALLAS – August 5, 2021 – Significant disparities exist in the diagnosis and treatment of headaches by race, socioeconomic level and insurance status, despite the fact that headaches affect almost all racial and ethnic groups at the same rate, according to research conducted by UT Faculty of the Southwestern Medical Center.

Latinos are 50% less likely to be diagnosed with migraine than whites, and African American men receive the least care for headaches nationwide, according to a review the article published in the journal Neurology.

The undertreatment of headache in black patients is consistent with the available data on the undertreatment of pain in these people and is believed to be partially influenced by the misconception that African Americans are biologically more tolerant of pain. This mistaken belief has historically led to disparities in health care, according to the study.

“We need to see ourselves as health professionals and think: what can we do to help eliminate these disparities and inequalities? ” said Jessica Kiarashi, MD, assistant professor of neurology, lead author of the article and chair of the Underserved Population in Headache Medicine section of the American Headache Society.

Dr. Kiarashi worked with 15 other headache experts to review more than 50 studies on headache disorders and health care disparities.

Part of the problem is the shortage of doctors specializing in headache disorders, but major flaws nationwide include systemic and institutional racism and the lack of health care in some geographies.

Other findings included:

  • Non-white children were less likely to receive headache medication, and they were three times less likely to receive imaging than white children.
  • Black children are less likely to have emergency room visits for sports-related pediatric head injuries.
  • Low-income groups have a 60 percent higher rate of migraines.
  • Uninsured adults with migraine headaches are twice as likely, and publicly insured adults one and a half times more likely, to not receive evidence-based treatment compared to commercially insured adults with migraine headaches.

Dr Kiarashi said there was very little data on Asian Americans.

Headaches are also stigmatized, Dr Kiarashi said. Headaches can dramatically erode a person’s quality of life, making it difficult to concentrate in the workplace, and negative social selection of people with headaches can further disadvantage minority groups in society, she declared.

Other researchers who contributed to the study include Juliana VanderPluym, Christina L. Szperka, Scott Turner, Mia T. Minen, Susan Broner, Alexandra C. Ross, Amanda E. Wagstaff, Marissa Anto, Maya Marzouk, Teshamae S. Monteith, Noah Rosen, Salvador L. Manrriquez, Elizabeth Seng, Alan Finkel, and Larry Charleston.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has been awarded six Nobel Prizes and includes 25 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 members of the National Academy of Medicine and 13 researchers of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The full-time faculty of more than 2,800 is responsible for revolutionary medical advancements and is committed to rapidly translating science-driven research into new clinical treatments. Doctors at UT Southwestern provide care in approximately 80 specialties to more than 117,000 inpatients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases and supervise nearly 3 million outpatient visits per year.


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