Purpose of review
This review highlights the available data describing racial and ethnic health disparities among patients with rheumatoid arthritis in the United States from an epidemiological, disease activity, and wider socioeconomic standpoint.
Despite centralized government initiatives to include more underrepresentative minority populations into research, many of the studies that examined rheumatoid arthritis still fail to include sizeable cohorts of races or ethnic groups other than whites. Evidence is slowly mounting that individual, provider, and system-level barriers exist and contribute to unequal care that leads to poorer outcomes amongst patients with rheumatoid arthritis. As rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease, early treatment is crucial to delay functional decline – a narrow window for many minority patients who are disproportionality affected by disability.
To combat the inequality that exists amongst rheumatoid arthritis patients we must focus on why discrepancies exist on every level, system, physician, patient, and illness. Further research is needed to tease the complex interplay between race, social economic status, medical access, and outcomes to explain the disparities found in rheumatoid arthritis.