The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Race and COPD—Do They Relate?
We often go through our lives failing to consider individuals of other races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Or rather, it is not that we don’t consider them, but we either live in the silo of individuals who believe everybody is the same—a group of people based in equality, but blinded to reality, or we belong to the silo of individuals that still prospers in thoughts of prejudice and discrimination. Either way, the differences of people from various races are not being considered in order to benefit all parties, and for the most part, they actually result in an anti-symbiotic relationship. Moving into a revolutionary new era of acknowledging differences and learning how to mutually benefit from them has led to the introduction of many races into the medical field. Regardless of background, many of us share common ground in that we want to be happy, healthy and have access to healthcare. To promote general well-being, we now take the time to look at health issue from the perspective of a different racial, thus biological and genetic, background.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is one of the many chronic lung diseases that can leave sufferers struggling to breathe. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and while it is estimated that 12.7 million people have COPD, it is also assumed that there is a vast number of individuals with COPD who are not diagnosed. Many of the individuals who are undiagnosed may not fit into the majority racial profile. Currently, there are more Caucasian individuals diagnosed with COPD than those of African decent—despite newer research showing that the gap may not actually be significant. By having a larger volume of white individuals diagnosed with COPD, scientists previously accepted the notion that white individuals are more susceptible to COPD than black individuals. Surprisingly, new research refutes this finding as African American individuals are more likely to receive a COPD diagnosis at a younger age and with less of a cumulative-smoking background, or less years with first-hand smoke. Theoretically, this supports the idea that African Americans are more susceptible to COPD. With findings pointing in different directions, scientists are baffled by the potential connection between COPD and race.
Social scientists conclude that the discrepancies result from the individuals’ socioeconomic background and the environmental factors resulting, rather than just race. In today’s society, there is an increased number of African American individuals of lower socioeconomic backgrounds than white individuals. When an individual is of a lower socioeconomic level, they may be exposed to a greater amount of second-hand smoke, lower quality food, decreased access to healthcare and a higher probability of currently smoking. As a result, individuals of a lower socioeconomic status may be more likely to develop COPD. Unfortunately, as mentioned, being part of a lower socioeconomic level may limit an individual’s access to healthcare meaning they may not have the ability to actually be diagnosed with COPD. This could contribute to the large population of undiagnosed COPD sufferers.
In summation, perhaps we are looking at the connection between COPD and race all the wrong ways. It may not be as black and white as we have always believed it to be; the verdict is still out. Maybe the connection is based on socioeconomic status. Maybe it’s not. What we do know is that more research related to COPD, preventative solutions and minority individuals is needed before we will ever understand how it all connects to each other.
If you or a loved one—of any race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background—is dealing with chronic lung disease, such as COPD, emphysema or chronic bronchitis, know that you are not alone. This month is COPD Awareness Month, so there is no better time for you to reach out and seek help; now you can bring your life within reach. The Lung Institute has alternative treatment options that can offer an improved quality of life. For more information, contact us or call us at (800) 729-3065.