End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is one of the starkest examples of racial/ethnic disparities in health. Racial/ethnic minorities are 1.5 to nearly 4 times more likely than their non-Hispanic White counterparts to require renal replacement therapy (RRT), with African Americans suffering from the highest rates of ESRD. Despite improvements over the last 25 years, substantial racial differences are persistent in dialysis quality measures such as RRT modality options, dialysis adequacy, anemia, mineral and bone disease, vascular access, and pre-ESRD care. This report will outline the current status of racial disparities in key ESRD quality measures and explore the impact of race. While the term race represents a social construct, its association with health is more complex. Multiple individual and community level social determinants of health are defined by the social positioning of race in the U.S., while biologic differences may reflect distinct epigenetic changes and linkages to ancestral geographic origins. Together, these factors conspire to influence dialysis outcomes among African Americans with ESRD.
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