As a Wisconsin public high school student eager to learn about specific health disparities and identify approaches to combat these challenges I investigated efforts being undertaken in Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. While the CDC reports that health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality are improving, some minorities do experience a disproportionate burden of preventable diseases compared with non-minorities. Given health disparities is a broad field, I explored how leading radiologists are making an impact to identify specific disparities and learned that local radiologists reviewed millions of emergency room encounters over an eleven-year period and concluded that non-white patients were less likely to receive imaging services. Specifically, based on this study, white patients received medical imaging 49% of the time, versus 41% for non-white patients and 28% for black patients during their ER encounters (Colwell RL, Narayan AK, Ross AB).
In acknowledging their findings, Doctors Narayan and Ross assert that “Without proper imaging, many non-white patients are left undiagnosed, which opens the door to further complications and disparities down the road,” as a delay in making a cancer diagnosis can increase the complications or mortality from such cancers (Ibid., Colwell RL, Narayan AK, Ross AB). Dr. Naravan, who serves as, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Department of Radiology Vice Chair of Equity, is focused on helping educate medical providers to properly develop protocols to maximize appropriate imaging for patients and develop strategies for mitigating health disparities through the thoughtful application of radiologic technology (Ibid.).
Rebecca Colwell, a University of Wisconsin medical student, undertook a mentored research project with Dr. Ross that focused on imaging utilization by patient race or ethnicity and found disparities in imaging use based on race throughout many clinical settings. According to Colwell, her goal was to ensure that all patients have access to appropriate diagnostic exams, a goal that also required collaborating with various healthcare teams in other fields in order to implement effective changes to decrease such disparities.
By working to link evidence of imaging disparities to strategies to improve health outcomes, 21st century physicians will be better informed to promote an equitable healthcare system. Committed to do my part, I continue to learn from diverse forums to expand equitable diagnostic and therapeutic treatments in line with our country’s Declaration of Independence promise of “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life.”
CDC Health Disparities & Inequalities Report (CHDIR) at CDC Health Disparities & Inequalities Report (CHDIR) – Minority Health – CDC.
Colwell RL, Narayan AK, Ross AB. Patient Race or Ethnicity and the Use of Diagnostic Imaging: A Systematic Review. J Am Coll Radiol. 2022 Apr;19(4):521-528. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2022.01.008. Epub 2022 Feb 22. PMID: 35216945).
Declaration of Independence: A Transcription | National at https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript