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MS in the Black Community

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Overview

MS has historically been thought to primarily affect Caucasians, particularly those of Northern European descent. However, breakthroughs in research have revealed more information about MS in other racial and ethnic populations. Studies of military personnel and subscribers of Southern California Kaiser Permanente healthcare system both indicate a higher incidence (the number of people newly diagnosed with MS within a given period of time) of MS in those in the Black community than previously thought.

Living Well With MS: A Guide For Black Americans

Poet Azure Antoinette and others discuss living with multiple sclerosis in a new documentary.

For tips and information about living well with MS, download the companion guidebook.
 

MS Expert on Research and Health Disparities

In this powerful video Dr. Mitzi Joi Williams of Joi Life Wellness Group in Atlanta, GA, kicks off the Black MS Experience Summit to discuss racial disparities and how multiple sclerosis uniquely impacts the African American and Black MS Community.

Different symptoms

There’s some evidence that MS symptoms can be different in range and severity for Black people:

  • more frequent relapses and poorer recovery
  • more walking problems
  • more balance and coordination problems
  • more problems with thinking
  • earlier disability onset
  • more visual symptoms

Optic Neuritis

People living with multiple sclerosis share their experiences with optic neuritis. Neuro-opthalmologist Tariq Bhatti, MD from Duke University Medicine, discusses management and treatment options.

Programs

The Black MS Experience Summit is a three-day virtual event that gives the Black MS community an opportunity to connect with others who understand the distinct experience of life with MS as a Black person. The Summit features leading MS experts who can speak to this experience to offer support, guidance and updates in research.

Black MS Experience Summit: Introduction

Damian Washington shares his personal experience with multiple sclerosis and gives some information on the purpose of the Black MS Experience Summit as an important place to foster relationships, build community and create awareness.

Participate in medical research

Research moves us forward – it is how we learn more about MS, develop better methods of symptom management and ultimately, find a cure. Medical research on MS has historically not included people of ethnic and racial minorities. To best inform Black communities with MS about their disease, it is essential to participate in research. Otherwise, recommendations are based off conclusions from studies of other ethnic groups and races. 

Different populations are being studied to learn why some ethnic groups develop MS at higher rates than others. The MS Genetics Group is asking for the donation of a blood samples from Black people with MS and controls without MS. It is not required, but the participation of certain family members is preferred as well. 

The National African Americans with MS Registry was created to accurately estimate the number of Black people diagnosed with MS in the United States as well as geographic distribution. With the data, researchers can study the existence of barriers to access to care and strategies that are needed to undo inequities of access

Learn more about how you could be Making a Difference in MS Through Research in this article from the MS Minority Research Engagement Partnership Network. 

Importance of Minorities in Multiple Sclerosis Research

MS affects African Americans and Hispanics in different ways compared with other ethnic groups. Symptoms may differ, the disease may progress faster, and treatments may have different effects. African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos are underrepresented in research studies. That makes it difficult to tell which treatments are best for them, or how to reduce the risk of MS in these groups.

You can make a difference! Talk to your health care provider about participating in a clinical trial or other types of research. Join iConquerMS.org, a research network open to all people with MS, and learn about other research studies at www.acceleratedcure.org/MSResearch. Learn why participation in research is important, and find out how you can help educate others at www.acceleratedcure.org/MinorityNetwork.

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