Reducing Stress and Racial Disparities in Pediatric Vitiligo

Two study authors speak on providing pediatric patients of color with atopic diseases with greater access to care.

In recent years, autoimmune conditions such as vitiligo and alopecia areata had been reported to disproportionately effect patients of color and drastically affecting the mental and emotional well-being of pediatric patients of color specifically.

A recent study from the University of Chicago conducted several groups visits that included pediatric patients of color with atopic diseases such as vitiligo and their parents that addressed the challenges of these conditions while also exploring the benefits of virtual pediatric group visits.

In an interview with HCPLive, 2 study authors, Adena E. Rosenblatt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine & Pediatrics at University of Chicago, and Natalia N. Khosla, MSc, MD candidate at University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine spoke of their findings from those discussions.

“A lot of the patients, especially young patients that we have that have conditions such as vitiligo and alopecia areata really struggle with the psychosocial aspect of the disease,” Rosenblatt said. “One of the things that I hear over and over again, is that ‘I don't know anyone else who has I'm the only person who has this condition’, and we wanted a way to be able to connect patients and their families and really give them an outlet to be able to discuss some of the issues that a lot of their friends and family won't understand.”

Rosenblatt added that atopic conditions such as vitiligo are much more apparent in patients with skin of color, often leading to issues with self-esteem and overall mental health.

Additionally, certain skin and haircare practices can affect, or be affected by, atopic disease, which she believed should prompt clinicians to focus on treatments specific to these patient populations.

Rosenblatt and Khosla spent several sessions talking to patients and families with vitiligo and alopecia areata. Over time, patients and parents alike were more forthright with their concerns surrounding the child’s condition.

They believed that the sessions met a need in participants, with 71% of children and 79% of parents stating that they would attend another session

“We estimate is that for future sessions like this, and if other institutions want to set up programs like this, it's just really important for children to have repeat sessions ideally with the same or similar group of people, because I think it's when they start seeing familiar faces that they're able to say, ‘Oh, hey, last month, I told you this, so now I can tell you, yeah, I was getting teased,’ or ‘how do you feel about that?’,” Khosla said.

Rosenblatt and Khosla hypothesized that local community meetings in areas such as schools, parks, and churches, could help families establish a network of pediatric patients of color with atopic disease and better inform patients and families of these conditions, as well as potential treatments.

Additionally, with the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting in-person gatherings across the nation, they also pushed for the adoption of telemedicine and other virtual practices, though a stronger focus on inclusivity among patients who do not speak English was warranted.

“I think it really has opened up a whole new world of connectivity and being able to do it under the supervision of a health care professional, being able to not only connect families and patients, but being able to provide information,” Rosenblatt said. “In a world where there's so much information out there and not all of it is necessarily correct or completely understood. I think it is really a benefit.”

To hear more from the study authors on the trials of vitiligo and other atopic diseases on pediatric patients of color, as well as potential treatments, watch the video above.