In Black America Podcast
3:10 pm
Sun April 6, 2014

University of Pennsylvania Study Find Racial Differences in Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

Dr. Allison Willis, MD

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Dr. Allison Willis, assistant professor of neurology and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

In her study Dr. Willis finds that African Americans with Parkinson’s disease are less likely than Whites with the disease to receive deep brain stimulation surgery to reduce tremors. Parkinson’s disease affects more than 2 million Americans. Deep brain stimulation surgery has been shown to be effective but involves extensive pre-operative testing and may include costs not covered by many insurance plans, including Medicare.

The study examined the cases of 8,420 patients who received deep brain stimulation surgery. While 5.5 percent of all Parkinson’s disease patients were African Americans, only 1 percent of the patients who received deep brain stimulation surgery were African Americans.

Dr. Willis says there are widespread disparities among Parkinson’s patients that are restricting equal utilization of evidence-based care, limiting patients’ quality of life and increasing societal and health care costs. Efforts to overcome these disparities, through policy or reimbursement changes, can benefit socioeconomically disadvantaged patients with Parkinson’s disease.