Caring for Hispanics With MS

Multiple sclerosis tougher on Hispanics and Latinos

(RxWiki News) Multiple sclerosis is hard on everyone who has the disease. But new research finds that some are worse off than others.

According to a new study, Hispanics with multiple sclerosis (MS) report more pain, fatigue, cognitive problems, mental health problems, and have more difficulty accessing mental health care, compared to a survey of the general MS population.

The researchers say this points to a need for better care for the Hispanic/ Latino population.

"Contact the National MS Society to advocate for better care for Hispanics."

The study was led by Dr. Robert J. Buchanan of Mississippi State University. Dr. Buchanan and his collaborators found many disparities while comparing Hispanics to a general survey of people with MS.

The research team sent out letters to 686 Hispanics/Latinos who were listed in the North American Research Committee on MS patient registry, asking them to participate in a survey. Ninety-nine of these patients agreed to be surveyed.

The patients answered questions about demographics; symptoms and disease characteristics; physician services; mental health status; MS-related feelings and experiences; and a standard Health-related Quality of Life survey, according to the National MS Society press release.

Their responses were compared to the Sonya Slifka Longitudinal MS Study, a long term study surveying two thousand people with MS. This study includes Hispanics and minorities, but they are disproportionately represented compared to non-minorities.

In terms of demographics, the responses from both studies more or less lined up. The participants were similar in terms of gender ratios, average age, education, and marital status.

They had similar types of MS, but the Hispanic respondents were likely to be younger at disease onset. Fewer Hispanic respondents were employed, but the study did not mention the reasons.

After demographics, the disparities started to become obvious.

Ninety-four percent of Hispanics said fatigue affected their daily lives, compared to 83 percent of Slifka respondents. Hispanics also had greater pain (73 percent compared to 54 percent) and 83 percent experienced cognitive problems, compared to 56 percent in the Slifka study.

Mood and emotional problems also took a heavier toll on the Hispanic respondents. They were more likely to have depression, and also reported dissatisfaction with their access to mental health care.

In terms of quality of life, Hispanics had worse scores on a survey assessing their physical function, pain, and general health, compared to the general population.

This study was a pilot study, and further research is needed. But the authors of the study recommend more support for Hispanics, and mention that providing this kind of support for a cultural group requires understanding how members of that group perceive the disease, and what factors limit their access to care.

The study was published in The Journal of Social Work in Disability & Rehabilitation.

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Review Date: 
March 19, 2012