Health disparities in endocrine disorders: biological, clinical, and nonclinical factors--an Endocrine Society scientific statement

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Sep;97(9):E1579-639. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-2043. Epub 2012 Jun 22.


Objective: The aim was to provide a scholarly review of the published literature on biological, clinical, and nonclinical contributors to race/ethnic and sex disparities in endocrine disorders and to identify current gaps in knowledge as a focus for future research needs. PARTICIPANTS IN DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENTIFIC STATEMENT: The Endocrine Society's Scientific Statement Task Force (SSTF) selected the leader of the statement development group (S.H.G.). She selected an eight-member writing group with expertise in endocrinology and health disparities, which was approved by the Society. All discussions regarding the scientific statement content occurred via teleconference or written correspondence. No funding was provided to any expert or peer reviewer, and all participants volunteered their time to prepare this Scientific Statement.

Evidence: The primary sources of data on global disease prevalence are from the World Health Organization. A comprehensive literature search of PubMed identified U.S. population-based studies. Search strategies combining Medical Subject Headings terms and keyword terms and phrases defined two concepts: 1) racial, ethnic, and sex differences including specific populations; and 2) the specific endocrine disorder or condition. The search identified systematic reviews, meta-analyses, large cohort and population-based studies, and original studies focusing on the prevalence and determinants of disparities in endocrine disorders. consensus process: The writing group focused on population differences in the highly prevalent endocrine diseases of type 2 diabetes mellitus and related conditions (prediabetes and diabetic complications), gestational diabetes, metabolic syndrome with a focus on obesity and dyslipidemia, thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, and vitamin D deficiency. Authors reviewed and synthesized evidence in their areas of expertise. The final statement incorporated responses to several levels of review: 1) comments of the SSTF and the Advocacy and Public Outreach Core Committee; and 2) suggestions offered by the Council and members of The Endocrine Society.

Conclusions: Several themes emerged in the statement, including a need for basic science, population-based, translational and health services studies to explore underlying mechanisms contributing to endocrine health disparities. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks have worse outcomes and higher mortality from certain disorders despite having a lower (e.g. macrovascular complications of diabetes mellitus and osteoporotic fractures) or similar (e.g. thyroid cancer) incidence of these disorders. Obesity is an important contributor to diabetes risk in minority populations and to sex disparities in thyroid cancer, suggesting that population interventions targeting weight loss may favorably impact a number of endocrine disorders. There are important implications regarding the definition of obesity in different race/ethnic groups, including potential underestimation of disease risk in Asian-Americans and overestimation in non-Hispanic black women. Ethnic-specific cut-points for central obesity should be determined so that clinicians can adequately assess metabolic risk. There is little evidence that genetic differences contribute significantly to race/ethnic disparities in the endocrine disorders examined. Multilevel interventions have reduced disparities in diabetes care, and these successes can be modeled to design similar interventions for other endocrine diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Diabetes Complications / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Complications / therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy
  • Diabetes, Gestational / epidemiology
  • Diabetes, Gestational / therapy
  • Endocrine System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Endocrine System Diseases / mortality
  • Endocrine System Diseases / therapy*
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / therapy
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Osteoporosis / epidemiology
  • Osteoporosis / therapy
  • Prediabetic State / epidemiology
  • Prediabetic State / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid Diseases / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Diseases / therapy
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology