MUSC study finds racial disparity in bariatric surgery

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Whites are receiving bariatric surgery at a higher rate than blacks even though a greater percentage of black patients are eligible for the surgery.

A national study led by Dr. Arch G. Mainous III, a member of the Department of Family Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, focusing on race and access to health care found and reported the correlation.

According to the study, a higher percentage of black than white women (22 compared to 12 percent) and of black than white men (11 compared to 8 percent) were eligible for bariatric surgery, but twice as many white men and women received the surgery.

It also found that 70 percent of white men and women had private health insurance compared to 50 percent of black men and women, a statement from the hospital shows.

"Bariatric surgery has been shown to be an effective treatment for moderate to clinically severe obesity and more importantly it has the benefit of successfully resolving or improving the important chronic conditions of diabetes and hypertension in the majority of cases," Mainous said.

Mainous and the other researchers said the causes could stem from access to care differences between the races, a lack of trust by blacks of doctors, a difference in how the races perceive surgical risk, and a cultural acceptance of obesity by the black community.

The result of these causes, says Mainous, is an increase in health problems within the black communities across the country.

"Bariatric surgery can improve quality of life, decrease the risk of premature death, and lower disability and health-care costs. Consequently, this health disparity in treatment has implications for health care costs and morbidity due to common diseases like diabetes and hypertension, conditions that are highly prevalent in the African American community," he said.