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Income and Race May Predict Women’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Referral, Enrollment

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Posted: 7/8/2004

Disparities in the rates of referral and subsequent enrollment in outpatient cardiac rehabilitation can be linked to income and race, according to a study published in the July issue of The Journal of General Internal Medicine. The study, led by Dr. Jerilyn K. Allen, associate dean for research at The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, showed lower outpatient cardiac rehabilitation referral and enrollment rates—post acute coronary events—for low-income and African-American women.

A total of 253 women, 108 African American and 145 white, were surveyed within one month of discharge from three major hospitals serving Baltimore City and its surrounding counties. Only 44 (19 percent) self-reported receiving a health care professional’s referral to cardiac rehabilitation. Low-income (less than $20,000 annual income) participants were 66 percent less likely to receive a referral than those of higher incomes and the reported rate of referral was lower for African-American women (12 percent) versus white women (24 percent). Only 15 percent of all women—nine African American and 26 white—reported enrollment in rehabilitation. Among the most common reasons cited by patients for not entering rehabilitation programs—particularly African-American women—was the lack of a referral or follow-up after discharge. Other reasons included feeling too sick, the belief that they either did not need rehabilitation or could exercise on their own, or they were too busy to attend. More than half (51%) of the women knew nothing about cardiac rehabilitation. Transportation and cost were not cited as barriers to enrollment.

The study, one of the largest women-only examinations of potential disparities by race in cardiac rehabilitation referral and rehabilitation, confirms trends that have been observed in studies that included a predominance of white and male patients. Lead researcher Allen noted, "As we have found in other studies, a referral or recommendation from a health professional remains a consistently important predictor of enrollment in cardiac rehabilitation. The good news in our study is that the majority of our participants (80 percent) who received information about cardiac rehabilitation from a health care professional, also reported enrolling." Allen added, "This research and future studies can improve our success rate. When we understand the reasons why low-income and African-American women seem to receive less aggressive referral and participate less often in programs, we can propose the solutions."

The study was co-authored by Lisa Benz Scott, PhD, Kerry J. Stewart, EdD and Deborah Rohm Young, PhD and was supported with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the full text of the article, http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/links/doi/10.1111/j.1525-1497.2004.30300.x/full/

Related link: Rehabilitation Among Women with Coronary Heart Disease (REACH)

For media inquiries, contact Lynn Writsel at lwritsel@jhmi.edu or 410-955-7552 or Ming Tai at mtai@jhmi.edu or 410-614-5317.