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Published: Monday, 11/11/2002

City panel plans session on disparities in health care

Blacks are more likely to get diabetes and sickle cell anemia. Native Americans have much higher rates of diabetes. Whites have higher rates of cystic fibrosis.

The accuracy of these statistics aren't disputed by physicians, but the reasons for them, as well as how different races are treated by physicians, is a controversial topic.

Some physicians argue minorities tend to do worse than whites because they receive worse care, either for socioeconomic reasons or subconscious racism on the part of some physicians.

But there are many medical conditions where race and ethnicity appear to be clear-cut risk factors on their own.

For example, about 6 percent of the general population has diagnosed diabetes, but twice as many blacks and Hispanics get the disease.

“A lot of patients think it's good to be color-blind, but medicine isn't color blind,” said Dr. Louito Edje, a family practice physician in Maumee.

Dr. Edje is one of several speakers who will discuss racial and ethnic disparities in health, health access, and minorities in health careers, during a meeting Thursday night at the Wyndam Hotel in downtown Toledo. The Mayor's Commission on Minority Health is hosting the event and hopes the meeting serves as a “brainstorming session,” said Zeenat Khan, the commission's assistant project director. “We want to know what community members think,” Ms. Khan said.

The commission was formed by then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in 1999 to address disparities in health issues between minorities and whites.

Dr. Edje said her presentation will stress that patients need to tell physicians their family history. She said light-skinned people may have African-American ancestors, and vice versa, which could place them at higher risk for certain diseases.

Other speakers Thursday will include Dr. Barry Richardson, assistant vice president of multicultural affairs at Medical College of Ohio, and Doni Miller, chief executive officer of the Neighborhood Health Association, which serves the poor at several Toledo clinics.

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