American College of Rheumatology Announces Extension of The Lupus Initiative

ATLANTA, Oct. 3, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) announced the two-million-dollar, one-year extension of its initiative to eliminate health disparities in lupus. The extension is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health in collaboration with the Office on Women's Health and Office of the Surgeon General.

The grant provides the program with additional funds necessary to continue to provide nationwide access to educational resources that improve the diagnosis and treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly called lupus) and reducing associated health disparities. "The success of the program to date is the result of collective input from many experts and organizations and we are thrilled that we can continue to collaborate to have a positive impact for those with lupus," says Sheryl McCalla, senior director of collaborative initiatives for the ACR. This year the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals; Emory University; Georgetown University, National Center for Cultural Competence; Lupus Research Institute; Morehouse School of Medicine; and University of California San Francisco will use their expertise to support the ACR in achieving the program goals.

Lupus is a complex, chronic autoimmune disease that affects up to 1.5 million people across the U.S., a disproportionate number of which are women and people of color between the ages of 15 and 45. The disease causes the body's immune system to form antibodies that can attack virtually any organ or tissue in the body. Early detection is key because, if left unchecked, it can have devastating consequences. Currently, lupus is a leading cause of premature cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and stroke among young women. It is particularly devastating to racial and ethnic minorities, who tend to develop symptoms at an earlier age and have mortality rates two to three times higher than non-Hispanic Whites.

"Many factors cause disparities in prevalence, diagnosis and treatment of lupus among ethnic groups, and some of those factors are within our control. This program is important because it offers broad, multidisciplinary approaches to close those gaps," says McCalla.

The Lupus Initiative has developed a suite of free, online materials to educate medical professionals about lupus and the complexity of health disparities. Lupus is two to three times more common in racial and ethnic minorities, who also tend to experience more severe symptoms and poorer outcomes than non-Hispanic Whites. While genetic factors may play a role, a growing body of evidence suggests that socioeconomic status, education, culture, access to experienced providers, insurance coverage, and implicit bias can play a role.

The Lupus Initiative's educational materials focus on teaching lupus fundamentals and culturally competent care. The materials are designed to teach healthcare providers to think about the ways in which provider and patient perspectives can affect diagnosis and care and can help medical educators overcome some of these issues. The Initiative is focusing on the dissemination and evaluation of these materials in the coming years, says McCalla.

About The Lupus Initiative

The Lupus Initiative is a multi-faceted education program led by the American College of Rheumatology that provides medical professionals, educators and students with easy-to-use educational resources to ensure the early and accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and management of patients with lupus, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, so that they may potentially lead healthier lives.

The Lupus Initiative is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through its Office of Minority Health; The Lupus Initiative is guided by a national consortium of experts in medicine, public health, academia, research, patient advocacy, and health disparities. For more information, visit www.thelupusinitiative.org

About the ACR

The American College of Rheumatology is an international professional medical society that represents more than 9,500 rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals around the world. More than 52 million Americans have arthritis or another form of rheumatic disease. Rheumatologists are healthcare specialists qualified by training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. For more information about the ACR, visit www.rheumatology.org.

CONTACT: Bonny Senkbeil bsenkbeil@rheumatology.orgSource:American College of Rheumatology