Does Access to Cardiac Investigation and Treatment Contribute to Social and Ethnic Differences in Coronary Heart Disease? Whitehall II Prospective Cohort Study
BMJ: British Medical Journal 2004 August 7; 329(7461): 318-321
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether access to cardiac procedures and drugs contributes to social and ethnic differences in coronary heart disease in a population setting. DESIGN: Prospective study with follow up over 15 years. Civil service employment grade was used as a measure of individual socioeconomic position. Need for cardiac care was determined by the presence of angina, myocardial infarction, and coronary risk factors. SETTING: 20 civil service departments originally located in London. PARTICIPANTS: 10,308 civil servants (3414 women; 560 South Asian) aged 35-55 years at baseline in 1985-8. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Use of exercise electrocardiography, coronary angiography, and coronary revascularisation procedures and secondary prevention drugs. RESULTS: Inverse social gradients existed in incident coronary morbidity and mortality. South Asian participants also had higher rates than white participants. After adjustment for clinical need, social position showed no association with the use of cardiac procedures or secondary prevention drugs. For example, men in the low versus high employment grade had an age adjusted odds ratio for angiography of 1.87 (95% confidence interval 1.32 to 2.64), which decreased to 1.27 (0.83 to 1.94) on adjustment for clinical need. South Asians tended to be more likely to have cardiac procedures and to be taking more secondary prevention drugs than white participants, even after adjustment for clinical need. CONCLUSION: This population based study, which shows the widely observed social and ethnic patterning of coronary heart disease, found no evidence that low social position or South Asian ethnicity was associated with lower use of cardiac procedures or drugs, independently of clinical need. Differences in medical care are unlikely to contribute to social or ethnic differences in coronary heart disease in this cohort.
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