The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), a division of the National Institutes of Health, has developed an initiative to conduct research on disparities in surgical care for disadvantaged populations.

Health disparities are typically associated with higher rates of chronic disabling conditions, greater comorbidity, a higher risk of premature death, lower quality of life, and longer recovery from disease. Disparities are also found in surgical outcomes.

“Disparities in surgical care can result in poorer functional outcomes, prolonged rehabilitation and recovery, and lower quality of life, particularly for disadvantaged population groups,” said Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable , NIMHD Director. “Racial and ethnic minority and low-income population groups are often times disproportionately affected by access, availability, and affordability to the most advanced health care services.”

Roughly 51 million inpatient and 53 million outpatient surgical cases are performed in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research has indicated surgical care or anesthesia management or sometimes both are needed for 11%-30% of the patients suffering from the global burdens of disease, according to NIMHD. This research program, which has been approved by the National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities, will help reduce unequal access in surgical care and improve outcomes.

Factors identified as affecting surgical outcomes include patient characteristics, healthcare system and access, clinical care and quality, and postoperative care and rehabilitation. However, for surgical disparities research, five overarching priorities have been highlighted for closer examination including improving patient-clinician communication, evaluating longer term effects, and improving patient centeredness. The NIMHD initiative will support development of a national research agenda in the area of disparities in surgical access, care, and outcomes.

Dr. Irene Dankwa-Mullan, acting deputy director, Division of Extramural Research at NIMHD, believes the program is a great chance to truly learn what are the causes and the solutions to surgical disparities. “The new research program will examine hypotheses based on published or evidence-based surgical methods that identify new indications or approaches to improving access, care coordination, outcomes, safety, and quality of surgical care for health disparity populations.”

Find the study at the National Institutes of Health here .


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