Racial disparities in stroke care

Studies show that minorities who suffer strokes are less knowledgeable than whites about risk factors and are slower to receive care when every minute counts, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Loyola University Health System stroke specialist Dr. José Biller is a member of the panel of experts who wrote the statement, which was published online May 26 in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The report said there are disparities in every aspect of stroke care. Minorities use fewer emergency medical services, have delayed arrival in emergency rooms and longer waiting times and are less likely to receive tPA, the clot-busting drug used to treat the majority of strokes caused by blood clots.

The panel said there also are disparities between whites and minorities in awareness of risk factors, stroke signs and symptoms, and the need for urgent treatment.

Biller noted that racial and ethnic minorities are expected to account for nearly 40 percent of the population by 2030. Health-care providers must therefore be knowledgeable about the effects that race and ethnicity have on stroke epidemiology and access to care.

"Further research is urgently needed," Biller said. "We also need to develop new strategies to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and to improve the quality and efficiency of care."

Biller is an internationally known stroke specialist and chairman of the Department of Neurology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

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