PFF Insights

Black History Month: Shedding Light on Interstitial Lung Disease

by Deji Adegunsoye, MD, PhD, FCCP
February 20, 2024

Black History Month provides a significant opportunity to shed light on the impact of interstitial lung disease (ILD) within the Black community. The stories of celebrities like Bernie Williams, Bernie Mac, Reggie White, and Queen Latifah underscore the human toll of fibrotic lung diseases among Black individuals, serving as poignant reminders of the urgent need to address racial disparities in ILD outcomes and drive meaningful change.

Understanding and addressing these disparities is not just a medical necessity; it's a moral imperative for the common good. Fibrotic lung diseases, including ILD and pulmonary fibrosis (PF), affect millions worldwide, presenting formidable challenges in management and treatment. However, while these burdens are widespread, they are disproportionately shouldered by certain communities. It's crucial to recognize that improving health outcomes for one population ultimately benefits all.

The Problem:

Recent studies have highlighted concerning discrepancies in ILD outcomes across racial and ethnic groups. Research published in the JAMA Network Open in March 2023 revealed that Black patients with PF experienced significantly shorter life expectancy and earlier onset of worse outcomes compared to their White and Hispanic counterparts. These disparities were evident in various aspects, including frequency of hospitalizations, age at first hospitalization, lung transplantation, and death. The root causes of these disparities are multifaceted, likely stemming from socioeconomic, environmental, and systemic factors such as education, employment opportunities, racial discrimination, neighborhood conditions, and access to healthcare.

Where We Are Today:

The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) Registry has played a pivotal role in uncovering the impact of race on PF outcomes. Analysis utilizing the Registry revealed that Black individuals were diagnosed with PF at a much younger age compared to White patients, and they also faced the earliest mortality. Additionally, the prevalence of connective tissue disease ILD among Black patients was four times higher than that of White patients. These findings underscore the urgent need for evidence-based interventions to address racial disparities across the spectrum of fibrotic ILD care.

What We Can Do:

Addressing the disparate impact of ILD on Black populations requires a multifaceted approach. Targeting inequities throughout the spectrum of ILD care, identifying preventable risk factors, and leveraging protective factors are essential steps toward improving outcomes for all individuals affected by ILD. By recognizing and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in ILD-related outcomes, we can foster fair treatment and enhance the quality of life for all patients. It's time to translate awareness into action and drive meaningful change in the realm of healthcare disparities. Together, we can strive towards a future where healthcare equity is not just a goal but a reality for all.


Special thanks to Deji Adegunsoye, MD, PhD, FCCP, Assistant Professor Medicine and Scientific Director, Interstitial Lung Disease Program at the University of Chicago for contributing to this blog post.