Black Americans Less Likely to Do Neurological Genetic Testing

(HealthDay News) — Black patients with neurologic conditions are less likely than White patients to undergo evaluation for genetic testing, according to a study published online March 6 in Neurology.

Aaron Baldwin, from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues analyzed retrospective data from patients with neurologic conditions who underwent genetic evaluation and testing to examine whether access to and results of genetic testing vary according to race, ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status, and insurance status. Differences between demographic groups were assessed among those attending a neurogenetic evaluation, completing genetic testing, and receiving a diagnostic result.

A total of 128,440 participants were seen in the outpatient neurology clinic between 2015 and 2022; 2,540 patients underwent genetic evaluation. The researchers found that evaluation was less than half as likely for Black versus White patients (odds ratio, 0.49); after controlling for other demographic factors in a multivariable analysis, this disparity was similar. Evaluation was also less likely for patients from the least wealthy quartile of zip codes (odds ratio, 0.67). After adjusting for age, there were no disparities seen in the likelihood of completing genetic testing, nor in the likelihood of a diagnostic result among patients who underwent evaluation. These findings were supported in analyses restricted to specific indications for genetic testing.

“Future efforts to understand and remove barriers to access to genetic evaluations for minoritized and marginalized groups will be essential to health care equity and optimal care for all patients with neurologic disorders,” the authors write.

One author disclosed ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

Related: Black Americans Suffering from Memory Loss Less Likely to be Treated, Diagnosed

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing is a medical procedure that examines an individual’s DNA to identify changes or mutations that could indicate a predisposition to certain diseases, conditions, or inherited traits. This type of testing has become increasingly accessible and can provide valuable insights into an individual’s health and ancestry. Genetic testing can be conducted for various purposes, including assessing the risk of developing certain diseases, determining the effectiveness of certain treatments, and understanding familial relationships.

Related: Young Black Women With MS See Worse Progression of Disease

Why Black Americans should consider genetic testing

For Black Americans, genetic testing holds particular significance due to various factors, including the disproportionate burden of certain health conditions within this population and the complex genetic ancestry of many individuals.

Diseases such as sickle cell anemia, which primarily affects individuals of African descent, can be identified through genetic testing. By understanding their genetic predispositions, individuals can take proactive steps to manage their health and seek appropriate medical care.

Moreover, genetic testing can play a crucial role in personalized medicine for Black Americans. By understanding their unique genetic makeup, individuals can make more informed decisions about treatments and interventions tailored to their specific needs. This approach can lead to more effective healthcare outcomes and reduce disparities in access to personalized treatments.

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