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Standing TALL Seeks to Address Striking Limb Loss Disparities in the United States

Apr 26, 2017

Disproportionate amputation rates among minority groups is impetus for nationwide effort to improve policies to support limb loss preservation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is a new national awareness campaign to overcome limb loss disparities in the United States.  The effort, Standing Together Against Limb Loss (Standing TALL) will advocate for expanded access to interventional care to prevent limb loss, especially for minority groups that are disproportionately affected by life-altering, yet largely, avoidable amputations.

Estimates suggest nearly 500 Americans lose a limb each day, many resulting from Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), is a limb-threatening circulatory condition where arteries are narrowed, reducing blood flow to limbs. However, amputations are significantly more prominent among minority groups. African Americans, for example, are up to 400 percent more likely to have an amputation than their white counterparts.  Similarly, Hispanic Americans are up to 75 percent more susceptible to limb loss than Caucasians.

In addition to dramatically reducing quality of life, amputation results in increased mortality rates.  Studies find that nearly 50 percent of amputees age 65 and older die within one year of amputation, underscoring the importance of limb salvaging procedures.

The scale of limb loss due to PAD and other medical conditions is particularly tragic because the condition is preventable. It is estimated that 60 percent of diabetes-related amputations, for instance, could be avoided. This suggests that despite innovative procedures and technologies designed specifically to improve blood flow that can prevent limb loss, minority populations are not receiving clinically appropriate care and, thus, are needlessly losing limbs at an alarming rate.

“Limb loss is a complex problem, as amputations derive from myriad pre-existing conditions. This means we need comprehensive solutions, which encourage prompt diagnosis and effective treatment long before amputation becomes an unfortunate reality,” said Bryan Fisher, MD a Standing TALL advocate and recipient of the National Minority Quality Forum’s Leaders in Health Award, honoring influential young minority leaders making a difference in health care. “Racial disparities in amputation are unfair and unacceptable, therefore we are bringing together concerned advocates to raise awareness and develop solutions so that no limb is needlessly removed on an individual who could otherwise live an active, high quality life.”

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) – one of the primary drivers of limb loss – is exacerbated by diabetes, chronic hypertension and renal disease, all of which are most prevalent in minority populations.  Despite this, limited access to interventional treatments has resulted in measurably higher rates of avoidable amputation.

Therefore, Standing TALL aims to end limb loss by advocating for policies to ensure that limb-salvaging procedures are completed before amputation occurs. It will do so by engaging patient advocacy, disease, minority, faith-based, veteran and professional organizations to increase understanding among policymakers, the media, and the general public.

“There is a long way to go before achieving equity in America, especially when it comes to healthcare,” emphasized Fisher.  “But progress is possible if lawmakers and advocates unite, and stand tall to end limb loss disparities.”

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