U-M researchers stress tackling racial disparities crucial to TB elimination

Racial and ethnic disparities in tuberculosis rates, Arkansas, 2010–2021.

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In the U.S., racial and ethnic disparities hinder TB elimination progress, often hidden in state and national data. University of Michigan researchers note that 88% of reported TB cases are in minority groups, as per CDC.

Maheen Humayun, first author of the study and a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at U-M’s School of Public Health, said, “There has been much advancement in controlling tuberculosis, especially in resourceful countries such as the U.S.But when you separate the data by Race and ethnicity, you see that the burden of TB among racial/ethnic minorities is remarkably high, often as high as in high-burden countries.”

Researchers from the U-M School of Public Health and Arkansas Health Department analyzed TB data in Arkansas, revealing higher risks for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, Asians, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Blacks compared to whites, as published in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The study indicates that minorities in Arkansas faced more advanced TB, hinting at unequal access to timely and proper treatment. Recognizing TB as a health equity issue is crucial for making progress toward elimination, as statewide estimates may conceal underlying disparities, says Humayun, one of the researchers.

In the U.S., overall TB rates have dropped, but historically marginalized groups still face a higher burden. Recognizing disparities in advanced disease risk is crucial at the state level for developing effective intervention strategies to eliminate TB, according to Humayun.

Zhenhua Yang, associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan Public Health and senior author of the study, said, “Race and ethnicity is an important social determinants of health. By assessing disease distribution and drivers of TB incidence across subpopulations, we can determine the more targeted specific measures needed to eliminate tuberculosis and improve health outcomes.”

In conclusion, the U-M study underscores the imperative of addressing racial disparities to combat TB effectively, providing valuable insights for targeted interventions and advancing health equity in TB elimination efforts.

Journal reference:

  1. Maheen Humayun, Leonard Mukasa, et al., Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Tuberculosis Incidence, Arkansas, USA, 2010–2021. Emerging Infectious Disease. DOI: 10.3201/eid3001.230778.

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