Lupus is a devastating autoimmune disease that affects up to 1.5 million people in the United States, primarily women and people of color. Despite its prevalence, lupus is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Because it can affect every organ in the body and presents with a wide range of symptoms seen in many other diseases, making a correct diagnosis challenging. In fact, more than half of patients with the disease suffer for at least four years and see three or more physicians before their condition is correctly diagnosed.
Lupus also highlights the complexities of health disparities. Not only is the disease more prevalent in people of color, but people of color with lupus tend to have more severe symptoms and higher death rates. While genetic factors likely play a role in the disparities in outcomes, a growing body of evidence suggests that socioeconomic status, education, culture, access to experienced providers, insurance coverage and unconscious bias on the part of providers can play a role.
To help address some of these issues, The Lupus Initiative, a program led by the American College of Rheumatology, has developed a variety of free online tools and resources for medical professionals, educators and students. Designed to increase recognition and understanding of lupus, the tools will aid medical professionals across disciplines in the early and accurate diagnosis of the disease, the effective treatment and management of patients with lupus and the provision of culturally competent and patient-centered care. The materials were developed and tested by experts from across medical specialties, as well as leaders in public health, academia and research, and include presentation slides, case studies, a video reference library, continuing education courses and educational materials that medical professionals can use with their patients.
The Lupus Initiative encourages you to share these tools with your colleagues and other medical professionals in your network. Together, we can improve outcomes for all patients with lupus, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, so that they may potentially lead healthier lives.
For more information about these tools and resources, visit http://thelupusinitiative.org/teachinglearning