Desert Mapping to Promote Health Equity in Multiple Sclerosis Care: Julie Fiol, MSCN; Andreina Barnola, MD, MPH


The associate vice president of clinical Innovation and strategy and the health equity director at National MS Society talked about leveraging data mapping to bridge healthcare gaps and promote health equity in multiple sclerosis. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

“We're using a dashboard to help us prioritize where we intervene first, and determine which strategies are effective in certain communities. Based on the characteristics of these communities, we can see what will work in one place may not always work in another area.”

Research shows that access to neurology and multiple sclerosis (MS) specialty care differs greatly in geographic regions worldwide and is also affected by the scarcity of neurologists and by health disparities experienced by patients with MS. These areas that have inadequate access to neurological care, particularly in this case for MS, are defined as neurology deserts. Therefore, it is believed that obtaining a better understanding of the neurologists’ landscape and the role of the patient population’s demographics as well as their social drivers of health (SDoH) in care access could help create more targeted interventions.

Findings from a new study showed that lower access to neurologists is associated with specific demographic and SDoH factors. In this study, investigators defined and identified neurologist and MS specialty deserts and examined demographics and SDoH of those in counties with varying access to neurological care. Although most patients lived an hour drive away from a neurologist, results showed a shortage displayed by low county-wide density.1

These results were presented at the 2024 Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum, February 29 to March 2, by lead author Andreina Barnola, MD, MPH, health equity director, and coauthor Julie Fiol, MSCN, associate vice president of clinical Innovation and Strategy at the National MS Society. At the forum, the duo sat down to discuss how healthcare disparities are addressed in MS diagnosis and treatment. The two also spoke about the innovative approaches that are used to improve access to MS specialty care. In addition, they spoke about how the update of the MacDonald criteria to come this year may impact early MS diagnosis efforts in the future.

Click here for more coverage of ACTRIMS 2024.

1. Barnola A, Fiol J, M. Snyder M, et al. The Identification and Characteristics of Neurological and Multiple Sclerosis Care Deserts Across the United States. Presented at ACTRIMS Forum 2024; February 29 to March 2; West Palm Beach, Florida. P194.
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