Citing patient culture as one of the hurdles to be conquered, Leggett says it is necessary for minorities to not only familiarize themselves with diseases that plague their communities, but also to be open to and educated about the various treatment options available. “Sometimes the appropriate treatment could be recommended by the physician but refused by the patient,” says Leggett.
On the other hand, doctors cannot avoid the role physician bias plays in widening the gap that divides minority cardiovascular care from that of the white population. “We as doctors have to own up to being participants in this disparity,” says Leggett, who accepts that the bias may not be intentional on the part of most physicians, but a side effect of socialization that should not be ignored.
The doctors anticipate that soon there will be visible evidence of progress. Both Leggett and Noble are looking forward to a decline in the number of cardiovascular-related deaths among minorities and an increase in the number of patients receiving adequate treatment. In the end, they hope to completely eliminate all disparities in cardiovascular healthcare and reduce the number of minorities being affected by such diseases to the same level as white Americans.
“If we can achieve that goal, Close the Gap will not only be successful,” Leggett says, “but the country will be healthier, and people will get the treatment they deserve.” For more information on the initiative, visit www.heart-healthdisparities.
THE FACTS ON BLACK AMERICANS AND HEART DISEASE
Based on data from the Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that there are approximately 700,000 black Americans with heart failure in the United States, and this number is expected to grow to 900,000 by 2010.
Black Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 are 2.5 times more likely to die from heart failure than white Americans in the same age range.
Black Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared with whites.