Complications from sickle cell disease (SCD) significantly reduce life expectancy to 38 years for men and 42 years for women. SCD is prevalent in patients with Sub-Saharan African ancestry. Genetic engineering and biological research have paved the way for potentially curing therapies and supportive treatments. However, inequalities in the United States healthcare system make it challenging for Black patients with SCD to access these medical breakthroughs.
Studies have found that 1 in 3 Black Americans carries a copy of the sickle cell mutation affecting the beta-globin gene, which is passed on to their children via autosomal recessive inheritance. Out of every 365 Black Americans, 1 is born with SCD.
The most effective treatment plan for individuals with SCD beginning in childhood includes genetic counseling, transfusions, penicillin prophylaxis to prevent pneumococcal sepsis, and an annual transcranial doppler (TCD) ultrasound to predict risk of stroke. Researchers have gathered data from various studies, medical organizations, and hospitals about the treatment of SCD in Black American children and adults.
The studies reveal that Black Americans face systematic racism from the medical community that prevents them from receiving proper medical care. Only 18% of Black children receive antibiotics for at least 300 days a year. Over half of Black children with SCD do not receive TCD screening.
Black adults also experience racism when seeking emergency medical treatment during pain crises. There is a racial bias in the medical community that causes doctors and nurses to dismiss Black patients and assume that they are seeking narcotics, such as opioids. This racism causes Black patients with SCD to be neglected and mismanaged during pain crises.
In conclusion, research supports that America’s medical system is impacted by racism that is harming the lives of Black Americans with SCD. Lack of resources for SCD treatment for the Black community and neglect by medical staff during pain crises are wreaking havoc on Black quality of life and life expectancy. These studies indicate that this systemic racism must be addressed. More resources need to be made available to Black patients with SCD to rectify SCD disparities and achieve health equity .
Source: Sickle cell disease: A case study of systemic racial disparities in US healthcare. (2020, August 6). Biotech Connection. https://biotechconnectionbay.org/viewpoint/sickle-cell-disease-a-case-study/