People of color (POC), especially those who also hold social identities associated with disadvantage (non–English-speaking, female, older, lower socioeconomic level), continue to be underserved in the health system, which can result in poorer care and worsened health outcomes. Most disparity research in traumatic brain injury (TBI) focuses on the impact of single factors, which misses the compounding effect of belonging to multiple historically marginalized groups.
To examine the intersectional impact of multiple social identities vulnerable to systemic disadvantage following TBI on mortality, opioid usage during acute hospitalization, and discharge location.
Retrospective observational design utilizing electronic health records merged with local trauma registry data. Patient groups were defined by race and ethnicity (POC or non-Hispanic White), age, sex, type of insurance, and primary language (English-speaking vs non–English-speaking). Latent class analysis (LCA) was performed to identify clusters of systemic disadvantage. Outcome measures were then assessed across latent classes and tested for differences.
Over an 8-year period, 10 809 admissions with TBI occurred (37% POC). LCA identified a 4-class model. Groups with more systemic disadvantage had higher rates of mortality. Classes with older populations had lower rates of opioid administration and were less likely to discharge to inpatient rehabilitation following acute care. Sensitivity analyses examining additional indicators of TBI severity demonstrated that the younger group with more systemic disadvantage had more severe TBI. Controlling for more indicators of TBI severity changed statistical significance in mortality for younger groups.
Results demonstrate significant health inequities in the mortality and access to inpatient rehabilitation following TBI along with higher rates of severe injury in younger patients with more social disadvantages. While many inequities may be related to systemic racism, our findings suggested an additive, deleterious effect for patients who belonged to multiple historically disadvantaged groups. Further research is needed to understand the role of systemic disadvantage for individuals with TBI within the healthcare system.