NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 5, 2008

Blacks undergo leg amputations as a complication of diabetes at a far higher rate than whites, according to a study by Dartmouth College out today that also found blacks lag behind whites in breast cancer screening and diabetic tests.

Researchers used data from Medicare to look at amputations, screening rates and other measures of quality care among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Other major findings:

  • Across the United States, the rate of leg amputation is four times greater among black Medicare recipients than white.
  • Black residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina had 6 amputations per 1,000 Medicare enrollees, while black residents of Colorado and Nevada had fewer than 2 per 1,000.
  • Overall amputation rates for both blacks and whites vary among states; Utah has the lowest rate at .5 amputations per 1,000 Medicare members, and Louisiana has the highest at 1.7 amputations per 1,000.

Blacks also were less likely than whites to get mammograms to check for breast cancer, although the size of the gap varied widely among states:

  • In Illinois, for example, 63 percent of white female Medicare beneficiaries were screened for cancer, while only 51 percent of blacks were.
  • In Massachusetts, the gap was narrow: 71.9 percent of whites were screened, 71.5 percent of blacks.

With the exception of Arizona and Kentucky, black diabetic patients were less likely to get a recommended annual blood test than whites.  The biggest gap was in Colorado, where 84 percent of whites and only 66 percent of blacks were tested, according to the researchers.

Source: Julie Appleby, "More Blacks Than Whites Must Lose a Leg to Diabetes," USA Today, June 5, 2008.

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