Racial inequity in America's ESRD program

Semin Dial. Nov-Dec 2000;13(6):399-403. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-139x.2000.00109.x.


The end-stage renal disease (ESRD) program has a significant overrepresentation of racial and ethnic minority groups. The increased susceptibility of nonwhite populations to ESRD has not been fully explained and probably represents a complex interplay of genetic, cultural, and environmental influences. Because the program delivers care under a uniform health care payment system, it represents a unique environment in which to explore variation in health care delivery. A number of disparities in outcomes and delivery of ESRD care have been noted for racial minority participants. These include possible overdiagnosis of hypertensive nephrosclerosis, decreased provision of renal replacement therapy, limited referral for home dialysis modalities, underprescription of dialysis, increased use of synthetic grafts rather than fistulas as permanent angioaccess, and delayed wait-listing for renal transplantation. Transplantation inequities mean that black patients are likely to remain on dialysis relatively longer, so that their susceptibility to less than optimal processes of care increases disproportionately. Improved survival and quality of life (QOL) for blacks with ESRD may have encouraged provider complacency about racial disparities in the ESRD program and in particular about referral for transplantation. It is also apparent that minority ESRD patients may, similar to their non-ESRD counterparts, be referred less frequently for invasive cardiovascular (CV) procedures. Despite these observations of inequality in ESRD care, the adjusted mortality for minority participants in the ESRD program are better than for the majority population. This seeming paradox may define an opportunity to improve outcomes for minorities with ESRD even more.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / diagnosis
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / genetics
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / therapy
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / genetics
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Renal Dialysis* / statistics & numerical data
  • United States