African American patients with COPD are less likely to participate in pulmonary rehab programs than white patients, even when there are programs nearby, according to research presented at ATS 2019.

The researchers said this disparity is concerning because pulmonary rehab has been shown to increase life expectancy, reduce exacerbations from the disease and improve quality of life.

According to results, overall rates of pulmonary rehab are low across the US but vary widely between HRRs, ranging from 0.52% to 7.1%. Examining rates by race, the expected rate for whites, at the HRR-level, ranges from 0.6 to 7.3%, while for African Americans they range from 0 to 2.0%.

The strongest predictor of HRR-level rate of pulmonary rehab receipt was the density of pulmonary rehab programs per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries with an increasing density of providers associated with increased rates of pulmonary rehab receipt, both overall and for white beneficiaries; however, among black beneficiaries expected rates remained unchanged as program density increased.