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Study Suggests Ethnic Disparities in Treatment for Chronic Pain


Chronic, non-cancer pain is common and associated with considerable disability and socioeconomic cost. However, in the general population, treatment for chronic pain has been shown to be less aggressive for certain ethnic/minority groups compared with whites. This study sought to identify racial and ethnic differences in patient-reported rates of treatment for chronic pain and ratings of pain-treatment effectiveness among 255, 522 Veterans who were treated at more than 800 VA healthcare facilities in FY05. Using data from the VA Survey of the Healthcare Experiences of Patients (SHEP), investigators assessed demographics in addition to patient-reported treatment for chronic pain and effectiveness of chronic-pain care.

Findings show that 35% of male Veterans and 44% of female Veterans reported receiving treatment for chronic pain. Male and female Veterans who were Hispanic or non-Hispanic black were more likely to report receiving treatment for chronic pain compared to non-Hispanic white Veterans. Among the Veterans who received treatment for chronic pain, non-Hispanic black men were one-fifth less likely to rate pain treatment effectiveness as very good or excellent compared to non-Hispanic white male Veterans. The authors suggest further research to investigate the mechanisms of how patient- and provider-level factors may contribute to differences in treatment for chronic pain.

PubMed Logo Dobscha S, Soleck G, Dickinson K, Burgess D, Lasarev M, Lee E, and McFarland B. Associations between race and ethnicity and treatment for chronic pain in the VA. The Journal of Pain October 2009;10(10):1078-87.

This study was funded by HSR&D. Drs. Dobscha, Soleck, Lasarev, Lee, and Ms. Dickinson are part of HSR&D’s Portland Center for the Study of Chronic, Comorbid Mental and Physical Disorders.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.