Health Policy

A new approach to understanding racial disparities in prostate cancer treatment

A new approach to understanding racial disparities in prostate cancer treatment
Journal of Geriatric Oncology, Vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 1-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.jgo.2012.07.005

Presley, C.J., A.C. Raldow, L.D. Cramer, P.R. Soulos, J.B. Long, J.B. Yu, D.V. Makarov, and C.P. Gross

Objective: Previous studies addressing racial disparities in treatment for early-stage prostate cancer have focused on the etiology of undertreatment of black men. Our objective was to determine whether racial disparities are attributable to undertreatment, overtreatment, or both.

Methods: Using the SEER-Medicare dataset, we identified men 67–84 years-old diagnosed with localized prostate cancer from 1998 to 2007. We stratified men into clinical benefit groups using tumor aggressiveness and life expectancy. Low-benefit was defined as low-risk tumors and life expectancy < 10 years; high-benefit as moderate-risk tumors and life expectancy ≥ 10 years; all others were intermediate-benefit. Logistic regression modeled the association between race and treatment (radical prostatectomy or radiotherapy) across benefit groups.

Results: Of 68,817 men (9.8% black and 90.2% white), 56.2% of black and 66.3% of white men received treatment (adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 0.65; 95% CI, 0.62–0.69). The percent of low-, intermediate-, and high-benefit men who received treatment was 56.7%, 68.4%, and 79.6%, respectively (P = < 0.001). In the low-benefit group, 51.9% of black vs. 57.2% of white patients received treatment (OR = 0.74; 95% CI, 0.67–0.81) compared to 57.2% vs. 69.6% in the intermediate-benefit group (OR = 0.64; 95% CI, 0.59–0.70). Racial disparity was largest in the high-benefit group (64.2% of black vs. 81.4% of white patients received treatment; OR = 0.57; 95% CI, 0.48–0.68). The interaction between race and clinical benefit was significant (P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Racial disparities were largest among men most likely to benefit from treatment. However, a substantial proportion of both black and white men with a low clinical benefit received treatment, indicating a high level of overtreatment.

Who Experiences Discrimination in Brazil? Evidence From a Large Metropolitan Region

Who Experiences Discrimination in Brazil? Evidence From a Large Metropolitan Region
International Journal for Equity in Health, 2012 Dec 18;11:80. doi: 10.1186/1475-9276-11-80

Macinko, J., P. Mullachery, F.A. Proietti, and M.F. Lima-Costa

Introduction Perceived discrimination is related to poor health and has been offered as one explanation for the persistence of health inequalities in some societies. In this study, we explore the prevalence and correlates of perceived discrimination in a large, multiracial Brazilian metropolitan area.

Methods The study uses secondary analysis of a regionally representative household survey conducted in 2010 (n=12,213). Bivariate analyses and multiple logistic regression assess the magnitude and statistical significance of covariates associated with reports of any discrimination and with discrimination in specific settings, including when seeking healthcare services, in the work environment, in the family, in social occasions among friends or in public places, or in other situations.

Results Nearly 9% of the sample reported some type of discrimination. In multivariable models, reports of any discrimination were higher among people who identify as black versus white (OR 1.91), higher (OR 1.21) among women than men, higher (OR 1.33) among people in their 30’s and lower (OR 0.63) among older individuals. People with many health problems (OR 4.97) were more likely to report discrimination than those with few health problems. Subjective social status (OR 1.23) and low social trust (OR 1.27) were additional associated factors. Perceived discrimination experienced while seeking healthcare differed from all other types of discrimination, in that it was not associated with skin color, social status or trust, but was associated with sex, poverty, and poor health.

Conclusions There appear to be multiple factors associated with perceived discrimination in this population that may affect health. Policies and programs aimed at reducing discrimination in Brazil will likely need to address this wider set of interrelated risk factors across different populations.

Beyond Black: Diversity among Black Immigrant Students in New York City Public Schools

Beyond Black: Diversity among Black Immigrant Students in New York City Public Schools
Randy Capps and Michael Fix, editors, Young Children of Black Immigrants in America: Changing Flows, Changing Faces. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute: 299-331

Doucet, F., Schwartz, A. E., & Debraggio, E.

The child population in the United States is rapidly changing and diversifying — in large part because of immigration. Today, nearly one in four US children under the age of 18 is the child of an immigrant. While research has focused on the largest of these groups (Latinos and Asians), far less academic attention has been paid to the changing Black child population, with the children of Black immigrants representing an increasing share of the US Black child population.

To better understand a unique segment of the child population, chapters in this interdisciplinary volume examine the health, well-being, school readiness, and academic achievement of children in Black immigrant families (most with parents from Africa and the Caribbean).

The volume explores the migration and settlement experiences of Black immigrants to the United States, focusing on contextual factors such as family circumstances, parenting behaviors, social supports, and school climate that influence outcomes during early childhood and the elementary and middle-school years.  Many of its findings hold important policy implications for education, health care, child care, early childhood development, immigrant integration, and refugee assistance.

Changes in ten years of social inequalities in health among elderly Brazilians (1998-2008)

Changes in ten years of social inequalities in health among elderly Brazilians (1998-2008)
Revista de Saude Publica, Vol. 46, supp. 1. 10.1590/S0034-89102012005000059

Lima-Costa, M.F.; L.A. Facchini; D.L. Matos, and J. Macinko

OBJECTIVE: To assess the changes in income-related inequalities in health conditions and in the use of health services among elderly Brazilians.

METHODS: Representative samples of the Brazilian population aged 60 years and more were analyzed between 1998 and 2008 (n = 27,872 and 41,198, respectively), derived from the Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (National Household Sample Survey). The following variables were considered in this study: per capita monthly household income, self-rated health, physical functioning, medical consultations and hospitalizations in the previous 12 months and exclusive use of the Sistema Único de Saúde (Unified Health System). Data analysis was based on estimates of prevalence and prevalence ratios obtained with robust Poisson regression.

RESULTS: In 1998 and 2008, the prevalence of poor self-rated health, mobility limitations and inability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), adjusted for age and sex, showed strong gradients associated with per capita household income quintiles, with the lowest values being found among those in the lowest income quintile. The prevalence ratios adjusted for age and sex between the lowest quintile (poorest individuals) and highest quintile (richest individuals) of income remained stable for poor self-rated health (PR = 3.12 [95%CI 2.79;3.51] in 1998 and 2.98 [95%CI 2.69;3.29] in 2008), mobility limitations (PR = 1.54 [95%CI 1.44;1.65 and 1.69 [95%CI 1.60;1.78], respectively) and inability to perform ADLs (PR = 1.79 [95%CI 1.52;2.11] and 2.02 [95%CI 1.78;2.29], respectively). There was a reduction in income-related disparities when three or more medical consultations had been made and with the exclusive use of the Unified Health System. Inequalities were not observed for hospitalizations. 

CONCLUSIONS: Despite reductions in income-related inequalities among indicators of use of health services, the magnitude of disparities in health conditions has not decreased. Longitudinal studies are necessary to better understand the persistence of such inequalities among elderly Brazilians.

Improving State Health Policy Assessment: An Agenda for Measurement and Analysis

Improving State Health Policy Assessment: An Agenda for Measurement and Analysis
American Journal of Public Health: September 2012, Vol. 102, No. 9, pp. 1697-1705. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300716

Macinko, J., and D. Silver

We examine the scope of inquiry into the measurement and assessment of the state public health policy environment. We argue that there are gains to be made by looking systematically at policies both within and across health domains. We draw from the public health and public policy literature to develop the concepts of interdomain and intradomain policy comprehensiveness and illustrate how these concepts can be used to enhance surveillance of the current public health policy environment, improve understanding of the adoption of new policies, and enhance evaluations of the impact of such policies on health outcomes.

Infant Antibiotic Exposures and Early-Life Body Mass

Infant Antibiotic Exposures and Early-Life Body Mass
International Journal of Obesity , (21 August 2012) | doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.132

Trasande, Leonardo, Jan Blustein, Mengling Liu, Elise Corwin, Laura M Cox, Martin J Blaser


To examine the associations of antibiotic exposures during the first 2 years of life and the development of body mass over the first 7 years of life.


Longitudinal birth cohort study.

A total of 11 532 children born at greater than or equal to2500 g in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a population-based study of children born in Avon, UK in 1991–1992.


Exposures to antibiotics during three different early-life time windows (


Antibiotic exposure during the earliest time window (


Exposure to antibiotics during the first 6 months of life is associated with consistent increases in body mass from 10 to 38 months. Exposures later in infancy (6–14 months, 15–23 months) are not consistently associated with increased body mass. Although effects of early exposures are modest at the individual level, they could have substantial consequences for population health. Given the prevalence of antibiotic exposures in infants, and in light of the growing concerns about childhood obesity, further studies are needed to isolate effects and define life-course implications for body mass and cardiovascular risks.

Immortal Time Bias: A Frequently Unrecognized Threat to Validity in the Evaluation of Postoperative Radiotherapy

Immortal Time Bias: A Frequently Unrecognized Threat to Validity in the Evaluation of Postoperative Radiotherapy
International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics., Vol. 83, no. 5, pp. 1365-1373. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2011.10.025

Park, H.S., C.P. Gross, D.V. Makarov, and J.B. Yu

Purpose: To evaluate the influence of immortal time bias on observational cohort studies of postoperative radiotherapy (PORT) and the effectiveness of sequential landmark analysis to account for this bias.

Methods and Materials: First, we reviewed previous studies of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database to determine how frequently this bias was considered. Second, we used SEER to select three tumor types (glioblastoma multiforme, Stage IA–IVM0 gastric adenocarcinoma, and Stage II–III rectal carcinoma) for which prospective trials demonstrated an improvement in survival associated with PORT. For each tumor type, we calculated conditional survivals and adjusted hazard ratios of PORT vs. postoperative observation cohorts while restricting the sample at sequential monthly landmarks.

Results: Sixty-two percent of previous SEER publications evaluating PORT failed to use a landmark analysis. As expected, delivery of PORT for all three tumor types was associated with improved survival, with the largest associated benefit favoring PORT when all patients were included regardless of survival. Preselecting a cohort with a longer minimum survival sequentially diminished the apparent benefit of PORT.

Conclusions: Although the majority of previous SEER articles do not correct for it, immortal time bias leads to altered estimates of PORT effectiveness, which are very sensitive to landmark selection. We suggest the routine use of sequential landmark analysis to account for this bias.

Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health in Older Adults in Brazil and England

Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health in Older Adults in Brazil and England
American Journal of Public Health: August 2012, Vol. 102, No. 8, pp. 1535-1541. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300765

Lima-Costa, M.F., C. De Oliveira, J. Macinko, and M. Marmot

Objectives. We examined socioeconomic inequalities in health among older adults in England and Brazil.

Methods. We analyzed nationally representative samples of residents aged 50 years and older in 2008 data from the Brazilian National Household Survey (n = 75 527) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (n = 9589). We estimated prevalence ratios for self-rated health, functional limitations, and reported chronic diseases, by education level and household income tertiles.

Results. Brazilians reported worse health than did English respondents. Country-specific differences were higher among the poorest, but also affected the wealthiest persons. We observed a strong inverse gradient of similar magnitude across education and household income levels for most health indicators in each country. Prevalence ratios (lowest vs highest education level) of poor self-rated health were 3.24 in Brazil and 3.50 in England; having 2 or more functional limitations, 1.81 in Brazil and 1.96 in England; and having 1 or more diseases, 1.14 in Brazil and 1.36 in England.

Conclusions. Socioeconomic inequalities in health affect both populations, despite a less pronounced absolute difference in household income and education in Brazil than in England.

Low Cognitive Ability and Poor Skill with Numbers May Prevent Many from Enrolling in Medicare Supplemental Coverage

Low Cognitive Ability and Poor Skill with Numbers May Prevent Many from Enrolling in Medicare Supplemental Coverage
Health Affairs. 2012; 31(8): 1847-1854.

Sewin Chan & Brian Elbel

Because traditional Medicare leaves substantial gaps in coverage, many people obtain supplemental coverage to limit their exposure to out-of-pocket costs. However, some Medicare beneficiaries may not be well equipped to navigate the complex supplemental coverage landscape successfully because of their lower cognitive ability or numeracy—that is, the ability to work with numbers. We found that people in the lower third of the cognitive ability and numeracy distributions were at least eleven percentage points less likely than those in the upper third to enroll in a supplemental Medicare insurance plan. This result means that many Medicare beneficiaries do not have the financial protections and other benefits that would be available to them if they were enrolled in a supplemental insurance plan. Our findings suggest that policy makers may want to consider alternatives tailored to these high-need groups, such as enhanced education and enrollment programs, simpler sets of plan choices, or even some type of automatic enrollment with an option to decline coverage.


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