Health Issues

Accurate collection of medical data is a prerequisite for optimal health care. One serious gap has been our country's error in the way people have been screened for genetic diseases, bone marrow donations and drug reactions. The mistake has been the lack of inquiry into the existence of multiple ethnicity in individuals. If, for instance a health practitioner makes a decision about someone's race by just looking at them (and not asking them about the existence of additional ethnicities) they may miss the opportunity to test for more than one potentially fatal disease. Example: A darkskinned person presumed to be African American, but who is also Caucasian and Jewish. Both Tay Sachs Disease and Sicle Cell Anemia need to be ruled out. The need to ask specifically re: multiple ethnicities is also true for bone marrow donors. In addition, research is beginning to show that different ethnic populations may respond differently to various medications. It is essential that healthcare institutions be made aware of the census option change and make sure they utilize accurate methodologies to obtain vital healthcare statistics.

Nancy G. Brown MN, CNS

National Donor Marrow Program - matches potential donors to recipients suffering from leukemia, a particular problem for people of diverse genetic ancestry.

International Cord Blood Foundation - a new alternative to marrow transplants and other tissue matches for various diseases.

AMA endorses multiple racial/ethnic checklist for 2000 Census - Clinical and epidemiological research research will benefit from more detail about racial and ethnic backgrounds of research participants and the poulation in general.