Doctors have long relied on a few key patient characteristics to assess risk of a heart attack or stroke, using a calculus that considers blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and diabetes status, as well as demographics: age, sex and race. Now, the American Heart Association is taking race out of the equation. From a report: The overhaul of the widely used cardiac-risk algorithm is an acknowledgment that, unlike sex or age, race identification in and of itself is not a biological risk factor. The scientists who modified the algorithm decided from the start that race itself did not belong in clinical tools used to guide medical decision making, even though race might serve as a proxy for certain social circumstances, genetic predispositions or environmental exposures that raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The revision comes amid rising concern about health equity and racial bias within the U.S. health care system, and is part of a broader trend toward removing race from a variety of clinical algorithms. “We should not be using race to inform whether someone gets a treatment or doesn’t get a treatment,” said Dr. Sadiya Khan, a preventive cardiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who chaired the statement writing committee for the American Heart Association, or A.H.A. The statement was published on Friday [PDF] in the association’s journal, Circulation. An online calculator using the new algorithm, called PREVENT, is still in development.