Decreased quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease from ethnic minorities

MILWAUKEE, WI, USA – People with Parkinson’s disease (PD) who belong to ethnic minorities who are traditionally underrepresented in medical literature have a reduced quality of life compared to their white peers in 2021, according to a new study presented at the virtual MDS congress .

Although racial and ethnic inequalities are of growing interest in medicine, the influence of these factors on PD patients in particular remains too little researched. In this study, Di Luca et al. Examine the quality of life, therapies used, falls and hospital stays of traditionally underrepresented minorities with PD. Parkinson’s Questionnaire-39 (PDQ-39) was used to assess the quality of life of the more than 12,000 study participants. Several differences were observed in the study, and the authors specifically point out differences between minority groups and whites in terms of levodopa equivalent dose intake and quality of life.

Recent events in America and around the world have highlighted the injustices and double standards faced by people of color and ethnic minorities. It has also led the medical community to reflect on how we have treated our own skin color and ethnic minority patients – whether they face similar, albeit indirect and unintended, “discrimination” or withdrawal from the medical community .

The study by Di Luca et al. is a wake-up call that the medical profession is not immune to this double standard. In my opinion, this study is relevant in three ways. First, it is a large, real-world study examining patients treated with the most proactive and multidisciplinary mindset in what are believed to be the world’s best Parkinson’s treatment centers; they set “the gold standard” for treating Parkinson’s patients. Second, the study showed that in the centers included, the proportion of black and Hispanic patients seeking help was disproportionate to the total population. This strongly suggests that more white PD patients are cared for in the best centers and non-whites and minorities are cared for elsewhere.

Finally, the study highlighted that even when blacks and Hispanic Americans were treated in these centers, there was a significant gap in not just the care they receive (e.g. quality of life). The reasons for this are likely deeply rooted and multifactorial. Studies like these remind us of the long road ahead of us to offer all patients equal access and optimal treatment regardless of their skin color or ethnicity.

Hubert Fernandez, MD, Professor of Medicine (Neurology) at the Cleveland Clinic

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About the virtual MDS congress 2021: Meeting attendees meet to learn about the latest research and treatment options for movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. Over 9,000 physicians, scientists and healthcare professionals from more than 100 countries will participate virtually to view over 30 hours of educational content and 1,300 scientific abstracts submitted by colleagues from around the world.

Via the International Society for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders: The International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS), an international society of over 11,000 clinicians, scientists, and other health professionals, is committed to improving patient care through education and research. More information about MDS can be found at

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