Research Finds Segregation in Hospital Rates

Megan Dial, Daily Iowan (University of Iowa), March 13, 2009

A recent study released by two UI professors and a UI research scientist provides evidence for the existence of segregation and its potentially fatal effects.

The researchers found that in highly segregated communities, black Medicare patients are 35 percent more likely to go to high-mortality hospitals, said Mary Vaughan Sarrazin, an investigator in the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

In the study released March 3, she said researchers discovered black patients are also more likely than whites to be admitted to hospitals with high mortality, even when they live closer to lower-mortality hospitals.

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Vaughan Sarrazin, along with Assistant Professor of sociology Mary Campbell and Professor of internal medicine Gary Rosenthal, compared hospitalization data from Medicare and looked at 118 markets for hospital services.

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Although they mainly examined large markets with a minimum of 5,000 black Medicare enrollees, Campbell said the UI Hospitals and Clinics can learn some lessons from the study.

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Campbell emphasized the point that even after the civil-rights movement and the Supreme Court case Brown vs. the Board of Education, segregation still exists in the United States.

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Campbell also explained noted studies have shown blacks often wish they were not living in neighborhoods with as much segregation.

“A lot of people make the assumption that this is about choice, that people choose to live racially segregated,” she said. “This isn’t true. African Americans say they would rather live in more integrated communities.”

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[Editor’s Note: “Racial Differences In Hospital Use After Acute Myocardial Infarction: Does Residential Segregation Play A Role?” by Mary Vaughan Sarrazin, Mary Campbell and Gary E. Rosenthal, can be read here. It is possible to download the article as a PDF file from this page also.]

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