Population statistics show that African Americans are more likely to suffer brain injuries than other Americans as a percentage of their population. Thus, being African American is a risk factor for concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI). This is especially true among African American males. The reasons behind this trend are obviously complex, but this reality cannot be ignored.
My Blog has described the visual impact of TBI. The burden of visual dysfunction from head injury falls particularly hard on African-Americans. I have personally seen this in my practice. Auto accidents, injuries, violent behavior all play a role.
Research has also demonstrated that outcomes of TBI are worse in communities of color. Lower socioeconomic status leads to less frequent diagnosis and poorer rehabilitation. These individuals remain handicapped the remainder of their lives, and they are often injured at a young age. This is an un-diagnosed epidemic because such patients are quietly ignored. They often end up homeless and without jobs.
As a physician I feel it is my responsibility to not only discuss the science of brain trauma but its everyday impact on daily life. I see many TBI patients, many African-American TBI patients and they have a difficult road ahead.
Ophthalmology needs to develop special programs to deal with the vision disorders of head injury. It is more exciting to develop newer methods of cataract and refractive surgery to allow people to see without glasses. We all like new technology. But new technology is expensive, and much fewer dollars are invested in technologies that could benefit this under-served population.
I am not a political person, but the facts are in: African Americans suffer disproportionately from head trauma, and their outcomes are not as good. Ophthalmology has something to offer, if you can’t see well, you lose hope.