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Anne Taylor

Anne Taylor (above), University professor of cardiology, will be joined by Vivian Pinn, director of the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health, in the next Great Conversation.

One nation, indivisible, with quality health care for all

Great Conversations looks at disparities in race and gender in medical treatment

By HoJo Willenzik

Published on February 5, 2005

With approximately 45 million Americans not covered by health insurance, health care reform has long been a heated subject of debate among U.S. policy makers. Among the issues of concern, and one that has been overlooked until now, is whether America's women and minorities have been denied equal access to medical treatment.

A woman having a heart attack is twice as likely to die as a man, as women are less frequently treated with angioplasty or other advanced techniques. African-Americans are one-third more likely than all other Americans to die from cancer, and they have the highest rate of hypertension in the world. You can delve deeper into this subject on Tuesday, February 8, at "Gender and Race in Medical Treatment," the latest offering in the College of Continuing Education's Great Conversations series--public discussions teaming U of M faculty with experts from around the world. This evening event will bring together two nationally renowned authorities on women and minority health issues--Vivian Pinn and the U's Anne Taylor.

Gender and Race in Medical Treatment

Anne Taylor and Vivian Pinn

Tuesday, February 8, 2005, 7:30 p.m.

Ted Mann Concert Hall, Twin Cities campus

Tickets are $28.50 per event ($23.50 for U of M faculty, staff, and students and members of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association and Presidents Club). For tickets, information, or directions, call 612-624-2345 or visit the Great Conversations Web site. Pinn is the director of the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health, while Taylor is professor of cardiology, associate dean of the Medical School, and director of the U of M's National Center for Excellence in Women's Health.

To help balance the scales of medical treatment, Taylor believes it is necessary to educate health care professionals as well as consumers. According to Taylor, "We have to make sure that physicians are educated in such a way that they don't make assumptions about their patients on the first contact."

Assumptions can be deadly. Older people, and women especially, experience heart attacks differently from middle-aged men. Instead, they might occasionally suffer severe fatigue, shortness of breath, or pass out; they might feel pain in an atypical place, like the jaw.

African-Americans have a unique risk profile. "There's a higher prevalence of hypertension and diabetes by comparison to other ethnic groups," says Taylor. "There are also significant risks involving access to care, in the sense that African-Americans are less likely to have adequate health insurance, less likely to be referred for special procedures, and less likely to be screened and treated in a preventive fashion."

Taylor also points out that women and minorities have been largely excluded from clinical trials. "We have to encourage scientists and funding agencies to be aggressive about the inclusion of women and minorities in clinical trials. They need a sufficient number to generate data on whether there are or are not differences," she says.

Her efforts to improve health care for women and minorities include directing a national clinical drug trial, "The African-American Heart Failure Trial," involving 1,050 African-American men and women with congestive heart failure. The trial was recently stopped because of a highly favorable effect of treatment on mortality and will be presented to the Association of Black Cardiologists to develop community education programs. The trial has also sparked controversy, with some critics claiming the drug would work equally well for all races, and others believing that it will lead to racial profiling.

She also edited a book, The Black Women's Guide to a Healthy Heart. "The book was designed to educate African-American women about the risk factors for heart disease, to help them interact productively with health care providers to develop strategies to adjust that risk, and [to teach them] how to negotiate the health care system," Taylor says. "I think it's true that by educating women, you educate the whole family."

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