Raising Awareness During Minority Health Month

Echosens urges all Americans to help raise awareness about the importance of early detection of liver disease.

Celebrated every year in April, National Minority Health Month is an effort to raise awareness about health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minority populations. During this time, Echosens is highlighting the impact of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its more severe form nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) on minority populations.

Fatty liver disease is a silent epidemic affecting millions of Americans as the rates of obesity and diabetes continue to accelerate. The American Liver Foundation estimates that about  100 million Americans ─ over 30 percent of the U.S.  population ─ have the disease. As the most common type of liver disease in the Western world, NAFLD increases the risk of cirrhosis and is now the most rapidly growing cause of hepatocellular carcinoma among U.S. patients listed for liver transplantation.

One study found significant racial and ethnic disparities in NAFLD prevalence and severity in the United States, with the highest burden in Hispanic populations and the lowest burden in Black populations.

Hispanic Groups Hit Hardest

One study found that the demographics of patients seen at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) from 2005 and 2014 have shifted to where the population of young, low-income, uninsured or Medicaid-insured, racial and ethnic minority Americans increased more rapidly than other demographic groups. Proportions of minority and racial groups, largely Hispanic and Black populations, seen by FQHCs also saw an increased rate of change. The minority group with the largest growth rate was the population of Hispanic Americans, increasing from 11.2 percent in 2007 to 13.4 percent in 2014.

This is highly relevant because studies show that Hispanics and patients with diabetes are at greatest risk for both NAFLD and NASH, and the prevalence of both is higher in the Hispanic population. Those with Type 2 diabetes and high rates of liver fat are more likely to have progressive liver disease than those with Type 2 diabetes alone. The 2019 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes issued by the American Diabetes Association recommend that patients with T2DM or pre-diabetes and elevated liver enzymes or fatty liver on ultrasound should be screened for the presence of liver disease.

Early Detection is Critical

At the front-line battle against liver diseases, a growing number of physicians – particularly at FQHCs where there are significant number of minority patients — are adopting FibroScan: a non-invasive technology that quickly provides a quantitative assessment of liver stiffness and liver fat at the point of care.

FibroScan makes it possible to combat liver disease when caught early. Designed as a portable, point-of-care tool, FibroScan can be operated by a medical assistant and interpreted by a healthcare professional. In fact, FibroScan is becoming one of the most important diagnostic tools when it comes to the identification, assessment and monitoring of liver fat and stiffness, comparable to the promotion of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) to screen for diabetes and new tools related to personalized medicine.

This April, help spread the word about the importance of screening for liver disease, especially among Hispanic populations. One patient at a time, FibroScan is taking its place as an essential component of high-quality care that every individual, regardless of ethnicity or economic status, deserves.

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Liver Health Matters