NIH program seeks to reduce health disparities in surgical outcomes

There is a disparity between surgical outcomes for minority and disadvantaged groups compared to the overall population. The National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities has set out to learn more about why this happens.

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

Studies have shown that patients with lower socioeconomic status experience higher surgical mortality rates regardless of access to care, race or age. Other factors, such as a higher prevalence of chronic disabling conditions and poorer quality of life, are also associated with disadvantaged populations, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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The new initiative is offering grant opportunities to better understand and address these disparities. The AmericanCollege of Surgeons has also announced five priorities for addressing surgical disparities, which dovetail with the new NIHMD project.

These five goals include:

  1. Improving patient-clinician communication by helping clinicians deliver culturally dexterous, competent care and measuring its effect on the elimination of disparities.
  2. Fostering engagement and community outreach by using technology to optimize patient education, health literacy, and shared decision making in a culturally relevant way; disseminating these technologies; and evaluating their effect on reducing surgical disparities.
  3. Improving care at facilities with a higher proportion of minority surgical and trauma patients. This includes evaluation of regionalization of care versus strengthening of safety-net hospitals with the context of differential access and surgical disparities.
  4. Evaluating the longer-term effect of acute interventions and rehabilitation support within the critical period of injury or illness on functional outcomes and patient-defined perceptions of quality of care.
  5. Improving patient centeredness by identifying expectations for postoperative and post-injury recovery. This includes adhering to patient values regarding advanced healthcare planning and palliative care needs.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is also collaborating on the program. 

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