HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, October 12, 2009

Unequal Access to Quality of Care: Hispanic Children with Brain Tumors

Hispanic children with brain tumors have less access to specialists in neurosurgery than other children. This disparity in access could negatively impact both immediate prognosis and long-term survival according to research by a team from Johns Hopkins. The study,  which was published in this October’s Pediatrics , is called Disparities in Access to Pediatric Neurooncological Surgery in the United States .


The study looked at 4,421 children with brain tumors over the span of 18 years. The study found that access was worst among Hispanics, as well as among those of lower socio-economic status and those living in areas with higher immigrant population and with few neurosurgeons.

Two of the authors of the study made statements to ScienceDaily

'What was shocking to us was the finding that, despite the push over the last decade to equalize access to high-quality care, gaps are still there, particularly among Hispanics, and, if anything, they may be getting even worse,’ said lead investigator Raj Mukherjee, M.D., M.P.H., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurosurgery at Hopkins.

Research has shown that patients treated at specialty hospitals that admit a high volume of patients with similar conditions fare better in the long and short term, investigators say. For example, studies show that patients undergoing brain surgeries in hospitals that perform the fewest neurosurgeries have up to 16 times the mortality rate of patients treated in hospitals performing the highest number.

‘Given that brain tumors are the most common solid tumors in children, lack of access to specialized care simply means that thousands of pediatric patients are getting less-than-optimal treatment, putting them at risk for relapse and a host of neurological complications,’ says pediatric neurosurgeon George Jallo, M.D., co-author on the study and director of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.


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