Article Highlight | 8-Aug-2023

Racial discrimination linked to increased inflammation among black women with systemic lupus erythematosus, study finds

Ochsner Health System

Atlanta, Georgia – New research from the Black Women's Experiences Living with Lupus (BeWELL) Study has revealed that racial discrimination is a distinct health threat that heightens the risk of disease among Black Americans. The research, focused on Black women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an inflammatory autoimmune disease, sheds light on the detrimental effects of psychosocial stress on health and the role of inflammatory mechanisms. The study was published in August in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Over a two-year period, the BeWELL Study examined incident experiences of racial discrimination and changes in the inflammatory biomarker C-reactive protein (CRP) – a protein made by the liver that increases when there's inflammation in the body -- among 380 participants from metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. The study, which enrolled participants from April 2015 to May 2017, utilized the Experiences of Discrimination measure to assess racial discrimination bi-annually through self-report. CRP levels were measured annually.

The findings of the study revealed a significant association between incident racial discrimination and elevated CRP levels throughout the two-year study period. The increase in CRP levels was substantial, with each domain of racial discrimination experienced resulting in a nearly 4% rise.

"This study contributes to the growing body of evidence on the biological consequences of racial discrimination," said Dr. Tamika Webb-Detiege, a rheumatologist and deputy head of admissions and enrollment academic for the University of Queensland /Ochsner Clinical School. "Understanding how racial discrimination compromises health and inflammatory pathways is crucial in our pursuit of more equitable and just outcomes for our communities."

The study's findings provide valuable insights into the racial inequities observed in outcomes for Black women with diseases driven by inflammatory pathways. By highlighting the role of racial discrimination in exacerbating health disparities, this research underscores the urgent need for targeted interventions and policies to address systemic racism and promote health equity.

As racial discrimination continues to pose a significant health threat to Black Americans, it is imperative that healthcare providers, policymakers, and communities work together to dismantle systemic barriers and create a more inclusive and just society. This study serves as a call to action, urging stakeholders to prioritize the elimination of racial discrimination and its detrimental effects on health.

For more information on the BeWELL Study and its findings, please visit the study website. For more information about Dr. Tamika Webb-Detiege, please visit Ochsner Health.



 About Ochsner Health

Ochsner Health is an integrated healthcare system with a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate. Celebrating more than 80 years of service, it leads nationally in cancer care, cardiology, neurosciences, liver and kidney transplants and pediatrics, among other areas. Ochsner is consistently named both the top hospital and top children’s hospital in Louisiana by U.S. News & World Report. The not-for-profit organization is inspiring healthier lives and stronger communities through its Healthy State by 2030 initiative, a bold and collaborative plan to realize a healthier Louisiana. Its focus is on preventing diseases and providing patient-centered care that is accessible, affordable, convenient and effective. Ochsner Health pioneers new treatments, deploys emerging technologies and performs groundbreaking research, including 4,000 patients enrolled in 685 clinical studies in 2022. It has more than 37,000 employees and over 4,700 employed and affiliated physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties. It operates 46 hospitals and more than 370 health and urgent care centers across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Gulf South; and its cutting-edge Connected Health digital medicine program is caring for patients beyond its walls. In 2022, Ochsner Health treated more than 1.4 million people from every state and 62 countries. As Louisiana’s top healthcare educator of physicians, Ochsner Health and its partners educate thousands of healthcare professionals annually. To learn more, visit 



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