Gender and ethnic differences in treatment seeking for acute coronary syndromes

Important advances in the diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks have resulted in a growing majority of people recovering and resuming healthy, active lives following a heart attack. In spite of these medical advances, however, little progress has been made in reducing the time it takes for individuals to seek medical assistance after they first experience symptoms of a heart attack. Many people still arrive at a hospital too late to receive the full benefit of clot-busting therapy and other drugs. Patient-related delays result in a significant number of poor health outcomes and deaths. To achieve better clinical outcomes following a heart attack, people must be able to recognize heart attack symptoms and be willing to seek treatment immediately. Dr. Pamela Ratner is examining the many factors that shape people’s understanding of their risk of heart attack, the symptoms that occur, and the course of action that should be taken. She is focusing specifically on gender and ethnicity, together with other socio-demographic, clinical, psychological, and social factors. Dr. Ratner’s research aims to clarify the roles that gender and ethnicity play in modifying these factors, and to develop a theory of treatment seeking for cardiac symptoms. Results from her research will contribute to designing effective interventions that improve responses and decrease patient-related delays.