A Call to Action to Address Disparities in Multiple Sclerosis Care: Jaime Imitola, MD


The chief of the Division of MS and Neuroimmunology at UConn Health talked about the challenges with access to care in multiple sclerosis, particularly for marginalized communities, despite significant progress made in the field over the past decades. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

“One of the most important messages for the general neurology audience is that if your patient has ‘The VISIBL symptoms” (from the VISIBL-MS tool) think MS.”

Historically, studies on multiple sclerosis (MS), an acquired demyelinating disease of the central nervous system, have focused on White patients with the disease. This lack of diverse representation impacts minority populations with MS from developing effective therapies to understanding the role of social determinants of health. According to a recent literature review published in Biomedicines, race and ethnicity are associated with genetic ancestry and therefore may indirectly relate to genetic variants that may affect disease and health outcomes in MS.1

In a systematic review newly published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, investigators aimed to determine the use of educational tools and mnemonics in MS education.2 Following the consulting of culturally competent bilingual physicians and patients, researchers then developed a mnemonic, named VISIBL-MS, to encompass early signs of MS for the medical community and the general population. This framework, available in English and Spanish, provides a novel structure for MS-specific awareness that addresses the interconnection between language, culture, health literacy, and health outcomes.

Senior author Jaime Imitola, MD, chief of the Division of MS and Neuroimmunology at UConn Health, recently presented this bilingual framework at the 2024 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting, held April 13-18, in Denver, Colorado.3 Imitola sat down with NeurologyLive® during the meeting to further discuss how the awareness of MS has evolved in the medical community over time. He also talked about some of the key disparities in access to MS care and how neurological symptoms in minority populations can potentially indicate a MS diagnosis.

Click here for more coverage of AAN 2024.

1. Moore MZ, Pérez CA, Hutton GJ, Patel H, Cuascut FX. Health Disparities in Multiple Sclerosis among Hispanic and Black Populations in the United States. Biomedicines. 2023;11(4):1227. Published 2023 Apr 20. doi:10.3390/biomedicines11041227
2. Patel S, Rafferty S, Aquino L, et al. VISIBL-MS: A bilingual educational framework to increase awareness of early multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 2024;30(4-5):585-593. doi:10.1177/13524585241228739
3. Patel S, Rafferty S, Aquino L, et al. VISIBL-MS: A Bilingual Educational Tool to Increase Awareness of Early Multiple Sclerosis in Diverse Populations. Presented at: 2024 AAN Annual Meeting; April 13-18; Denver, CO.
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