When care quality is the same, black patients fare better than whites

When it comes to access to healthcare, discrimination and socioeconomic factors, black patients generally fare worse than whites. However, in a vacuum where care quality is essentially equal, black patients have significantly better health outcomes.

Researchers investigating racial disparities in care within the VA health system reported that over a nine-year period, the mortality rate for black patients was 24 percent lower than it was for white patients when receiving the same level of care, according to a study published in the journal Circulation.

"We thought we were going to show they [fare] the same if the same care is offered to both groups," Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, MD, a nephrologist and epidemiologist at UC Irvine and senior author of the paper, said in a statement. "But we found blacks do even better. This is a paradox within a paradox."

The results suggest there may be biological differences between races that enable blacks to fare better than whites for some health outcomes, the authors wrote. Blacks are known to survive longer than whites when it comes to kidney disease, an area without less racial disparity in treatment due to government coverage of dialysis treatment.

In light of this, the researchers also looked at the mortality rate between white and black men with healthy kidney function over an eight-year period and found mortality for whites was nearly 10 percent higher. Although the black population in that sample was younger overall, with most factors taken into consideration their mortality rate was still lower.

An editorial commentary published with the paper concludes biological differences between blacks and whites, as well as underlying differences in general population health and factors such as diet and exercise, could also play a role in the results.

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