Minority Urologic Health Considerations
Though the United States of America remains among the most advanced countries for health care research, innovation, access, and treatment worldwide, there still exist barriers to quality health care for various races and ethnicities that make up our great nation. Even in the field of urology, minorities suffer disproportionately from their Caucasian counterparts in access to urologic cancer screening, early diagnosis, up-to-date information about treatment choices, and as a result, survival from urologic disease.
Among minority races and ethnicities, there are multiple areas of urologic health concern, which tend to see higher disease or death rates (in some cases) for these populations.
Urinary Tract Infection – Women are 50% more likely than men to develop a urinary tract infection (UTI). American Indian women may have the highest UTI rate than any other race or ethnicity.
Kidney Disease – Kidney disease rates are highest among the African American population. This racial group is also at a higher risk of kidney failure than other races or ethnicities.
Prostate Cancer – African American men are nearly 75% more likely to develop prostate cancer than any other race or ethnicity and are twice as likely to die as a direct result. In African American men, prostate cancer tends to develop and group faster at younger ages.
Testicular Cancer – Though Caucasian men are five times likelier to develop testicular cancer than other racial or ethnic groups, African American men have the lowest survival rate from the disease.
Erectile Dysfunction – Latino men tend to be more often affected by erectile dysfunction than Caucasian men.
Bladder Cancer – Cancer is the second leading cause of death among African Americans. Bladder cancer disproportionately affects the African American population than any other racial or ethnic group.
As I have previously written, some cancer risk-related factors are mainly out of a person’s control. These include genetic factors present at birth, gender, and age. However, healthcare access should not be among them. Around the world and even in the United States, there are significant gaps and disparities in high-quality urologic care across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic communities. There is a substantial need for public urologic health awareness directed toward specific ethnic and racial groups and an increase in the diversity of qualified healthcare professionals to provide culturally competent care to these individuals.
Increasing urologic health literacy among minority racial and ethnic groups is imperative. Most urologic cancer and other condition types accompanied by a higher rate of advanced disease or death for minority groups can be helped by education and access. Educating minority groups, inside their communities, by qualified experts who share similar lived experiences is one crucial way to help.
Another critical touchpoint for minority groups is convenient access to early diagnosis. In many cases, socioeconomic status can be a significant barrier to a person receiving an early diagnosis when treatment options and prognosis are both favorable. I am proud to see organizations like the American Urologic Association step up by empowering the next generations of healthcare professionals with grants and other funding to impact directly inside the communities they live or grew up in. Qualified and well-trained urologists are sorely needed but are currently limited in number and, thus, sparsely distributed throughout the country. Nearly 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas, but less than 10 percent of urologic physicians practice there.
While urologic care in the United States continues to improve outcomes for the lives of all Americans, it is imperative that we, within the urologic community, band together to ensure that these improved outcomes are equitable among all races and ethnicities. In a country where innovation and research have helped turn once-deadly cancers into curable diseases, we can certainly improve to ensure this kind of hope for healthy living is adequately accessible to everyone who needs it.