Health News Roundup

Disparities in breast cancer and kidney transplants, and more in this week’s roundup

Telemedicine a blessing for some, inaccessible for others
Cara Rosner, Connecticut Health I-Team, June 7
Telehealth has helped connect patients to providers over the past year. It has been particularly crucial in keeping community health center patients, many of whom are people of color and covered by Medicaid, connected to medical care during the pandemic. But while telehealth has brought some benefits and kept those already receiving services connected to their providers, national reports show that the technology has done little to reach new patients, and those with limited English proficiency had low rates of telehealth use.

Kidney experts say it’s time to remove race from medical algorithms. Doing so is complicated. 
Rae Ellen Bichell and Cara Anthony, Kaiser Health News, June 8
Thousands of Americans with failing kidneys are stuck going to dialysis as they await new kidneys that may never come. That’s especially true of Black patients, who are about four times as likely to have kidney failure as white Americans. They’re less likely to get on the waitlist for a kidney transplant, and less likely to receive a transplant once on the list. An algorithm doctors use may help perpetuate such disparities. It uses race as a factor in evaluating all stages of kidney disease care: diagnosis, dialysis and transplantation. It makes Black patients appear to have healthier kidneys than non-Black patients, even when their blood measurements are identical. “It is as close to stereotyping a particular group of people as it can be,” said Dr. Rajnish Mehrotra, a nephrologist with the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Trying to avoid racist health care, Black women seek out Black obstetricians 
Verónica Zaragovia, WLRN, June 7
Research has shown that racism, discrimination and unconscious bias continue to plague the U.S. health care system and can cause unequal treatment of racial and ethnic minorities. For Black women, the impact of systemic racism can show up starkly in childbirth: They are three times as likely to die after giving birth as white women. Experts say that in addition to recruiting more Black students to medicine and nursing, medical schools need to teach all students to treat patients with respect and dignity. Some medical schools are now incorporating anti-racism training and teaching students to ask patients about their experiences being discriminated against.

Breast cancer leads cancer causes of death among Latinas 
Oriana Gonzalez, Axios, June 3
The most common cancer diagnosed among U.S. Latinas is breast cancer, and it’s their leading cause of cancer-related death. Although they are less likely to get breast cancer than other ethnic groups, Latinas who are diagnosed are more likely than white women to die from it. Despite evidence that Latinas have the second-highest prevalence of the breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, their awareness of hereditary cancer risks and genetic testing is low, limiting their options for early treatment. The Latino community is also more likely to have difficulties accessing health care and insurance, making it harder to access medical counseling, referrals and testing services.

Why Black women face a triple threat from breast cancer
Yamiche Alcindor and Lorna Baldwin, PBS News Hour, June 3
For Black women in America, a breast cancer diagnosis brings with it a disturbing statistic. Black women are less likely to develop breast cancer but 40 percent more likely to die from it than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black women face a triple threat: They have higher mortality rates, they get breast cancer at younger ages, and have a more aggressive form of the disease.