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Racial Disparity in Health Outcomes Explored

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  A Tennessee researcher is helping answer the question: Why do Americans of color generally die of disease at higher rates than whites?

It’s widely recognized that white Americans are more likely to survive life-threatening illness than people of color. For example, black children are less likely to survive cancer than white children. The question that researchers are still struggling with is exactly why.

Doctor Ching-Hon Pui, chair of the Department of Oncology at St. Jude’s in Memphis, and also the lead author of a new study on this question.

Dr. Pui notes that black children do appear to contract some cancers at higher rates, but says survival outcomes are clearly a question of access to appropriate care.

“The poor prognosis can be overcome with more effective treatement, as demonstrated in St. Jude's clinical trials. We therefore believe that the racial differences in survival rates in the national data, were mainly due to the disparity in medical care.”

Dr. Pui and his team analyzed 15 years worth of patient data, and discovered that St. Jude’s child cancer patients enjoyed far better treatment outcomes than the national average. This in spite of the fact that St. Jude, as a research hospital, tends to attract the sickest patients.