Monday, July 16, 2007
Asian Americans and Eczema
My son, Penguin, has been scratching himself since his third or fourth week of life. Medically, he has been diagnosed with eczema like many Asian American children and especially Pilipino kids according to this study. It is not extreme but annoying, and we feel for him when he scratches off the top layer of his skin like its a lottery quick pick or scratches as if he has fleas. I think we've put an industrial sized vat of Aquaphor and Eucerin on him by now.
At the risk of exposing my complete medical ignorance to the doctors on this blog, the conspiracy theorist in me believes his condition (the fact more Pilipinos like his uncle get eczema) raises the larger issue of differentiated health care based on race. For geneticists, race is more than skin deep (although unclear as to how much and what.) Life expectancy and mortality rates still have significant differences according to race, and I don't think it is simply based on socioeconomic differences (although gender is a bigger factor.) When I did large scale opinion studies on issues that were related to race, we would have to significantly oversample for each racial demographic to have a valid statistically significant sample of particular races. The results of medical studies are assumed generalizable to all populations, but is that always the case, have they oversampled for different races or other subpopulations? Personally, I've been amazed to know of middle class and affluent African Americans dying of seemingly "natural causes" at a relatively young age, and I'm not talking about sickle cell anemia. What medical work is being done on race-specific ailments or effects of medication?