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Good medicine, good economics: African-Americans need equal treatment for pain, SLU study finds

ST. LOUIS -- As if doing the right thing isn't enough, Saint Louis University researchers have found another reason African-Americans and the poor should receive equal medical treatment and compensation for occupational back pain.

It's actually cheaper in the long run, concludes study author John T. Chibnall, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Research by Chibnall and Raymond C. Tait, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, in Pain Medicine finds that the cheaper treatment and smaller settlements typically given to African-Americans and the poor lead to greater dissatisfaction with the Workers' Compensation system, which in turn creates more long-term disability and costs.

The study is a companion to recent work by the authors, which found that African-Americans and poor people with work-related back injuries receive less medical care and smaller compensation packages than Caucasians.

"We looked at the relationship between their satisfaction with the process and their self-reported disability nearly two years after their claims were settled," Chibnall says.

"African-Americans got less treatment and compensation for their pain, all other things being equal. This made them more dissatisfied, and more likely to report higher rates of disability later. That also held for poor people."

The study examined 1,475 Missouri Workers' Compensation back pain cases, which were settled between Jan. 1, 2001, and June 1, 2002. Researchers used Workers' Compensation archives and patient interviews as sources of data.

"As an insurance system that provides uniform coverage for workers injured in the course of their employment in the United States, Workers' Compensation should be equitable with regard to case management of persons with low back injuries, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Similarly, outcomes o
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Contact: Nancy Solomon
solomonn@slu.edu
314-977-8017
Saint Louis University
28-Jan-2005


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