The Sickle Cell Disparity That Is Rarely Discussed
The #1 Blood Hereditary Disease In The United States
Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a chronic illness that causes severe pain and other complications, and it is most commonly found in people of African descent. Despite its prevalence, sickle cell disease remains largely unknown, and it receives less attention than other diseases that affect smaller populations. This lack of attention has far-reaching consequences, as it affects the education system, healthcare, and social interactions.
In the United States, many diseases and chronic illnesses are required in the educational system, but little attention is given to sickle cell disease. This leaves us unprepared to be good employers, teachers, coaches, and even friends because often sickle cell patients look perfectly normal. According to a study published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, only 31% of medical schools in the United States include sickle cell disease in their curriculum (1). This lack of education leads to misunderstandings and mistreatment of sickle cell patients, including accusations of drug-seeking, being seen as lazy, and needing time off work for hospitalizations and bed rest.
The Disparity Is Quite Real
The consequences of this lack of education extend beyond the social sphere. The healthcare system also suffers from the lack of attention given to sickle cell disease. A study published in the American Journal of Hematology found that only 42% of hematology/oncology fellows in the United States felt prepared to care for patients with sickle cell disease (2). This lack of education and preparation means that sickle cell patients are often not receiving the care they need, leading to increased hospitalizations and a decreased quality of life.
The Economic Impact On A Healthy Community
Sickle cell disease also has significant economic consequences. A study published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved found that the average cost of a sickle cell disease hospitalization was $13,000, and the average length of stay was six days (3). This high cost is often borne by the patient or their family, leading to financial hardship and decreased access to healthcare.
The lack of attention given to sickle cell disease is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Education about sickle cell disease needs to be included in primary and secondary education, as well as in healthcare worker training. Additionally, there needs to be more funding for sickle cell disease research, so that better treatments and a cure can be found.
Sickle cell disease is a chronic illness that affects millions of people worldwide. Despite its prevalence, it receives less attention than other diseases that affect smaller populations. This lack of attention leads to misunderstandings, mistreatment, and decreased access to healthcare, as well as significant economic consequences. Education about sickle cell disease needs to be included in primary and secondary education, as well as in healthcare worker training, and there needs to be more funding for sickle cell disease research.
Creary SE, Chisolm DJ, Stanek JR, et al. Sickle cell disease: an educational crisis. J Natl Med Assoc. 2009;101(12):1283-1287.
Hassell KL, Eckman JR, Lane PA, et al. Sickle cell disease education in American medical schools. Am J Hematol. 2002;69(4):167-172.
Yusuf HR, Atrash HK, Grosse SD, Parker CS, Grant AM. Emergency department visits made by patients with sickle cell disease: a descriptive study, 1999-2007. Am J Prev Med. 2010;38(4 Suppl):S536-S541.