Infectious Disease

Study shows that PSA was often not designed for women and minorities

November 19, 2021

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Personal protective equipment has not been developed for female health workers and those with black backgrounds and ethnic minorities, which, according to the results published in BMJ Global Health, leads to a potentially lower level of protection for these population groups.

“Current studies focus mainly on Caucasian or individual ethnic groups and [Black and minority ethnic (BAME)] People are not represented, so that there are insufficient comparisons between ethnic groups “, Jagriti Chopra, a faculty member of the University of Southampton UK School of Human Development and Health said in a press release.

ChopraJ, et al. BMJ Glob Health. 2021; doi: 10.1136 / bmjgh-2021-005537.

“We therefore need respirator developers who study the needs of health workers from a wider range of ethnicities and account for differences in dimensions between male and female faces.”

Although white men do not make up the majority of the healthcare workforce, personal protective equipment (PPE) is traditionally developed for this population, according to Chopra and colleagues at the University of Southampton. They conducted a retrospective study of mask fitting attempts. After searching five databases, the researchers compiled 32 studies for systemic review and 15 studies for meta-analysis of gender anthropometric differences. They compared the reported pass rates (PRs) – the proportion of participants who passed the “fit test” – by gender and race.

Of the 15 anthropometric studies analyzed, 14 reported significantly smaller PSA measurements for women compared to men, ranging from 0.37 mm to 22.05 mm. According to Chopra and colleagues, these differences did not always result in lower PR scores. However, 12 of the studies reported poorer fit and performance in women and 10 reported “no gender effect”. Furthermore, none of the studies analyzed provided disaggregated anthropometric data by ethnic group.

Researchers observed differences in face geometry, including face size and nose measurements, when comparing Asian and black groups with white participants. BAME or mixed ethnic cohorts had low to moderate PR. Masks, which supposedly fit white Americans well, have been shown to provide an adequate fit for 41% of Latino participants. However, minority groups were underrepresented in PSA adjustment attempts, preventing researchers from seeing more racial differences.

Overall, women and BAME participants had a lower fit factor and lower PR scores.
“Anthropometric data [are] Keys in the design and testing of respirators, and the user demographics reflected in the respiratory protection test panels can affect the level of protection provided by respiratory protective equipment, ”wrote Chopra and colleagues. “Face measurements vary significantly between gender and ethnicity.”

A study of the development of PPE “needs to reflect a more diverse group of users,” according to the researchers.

References:

ChopraJ, et al. BMJ Glob Health. 2021; doi: 10.1136 / bmjgh-2021-005537.

Most PPE are not designed for use by ethnic minority health workers and women, research shows. https://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2021/11/ppe-fit-testing.page. Published November 12, 2021. Accessed November 17, 2021.

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