In 2019, less than half of children aged 2-16 years with sickle cell anemia received the recommended screening for stroke, a common complication of the disease, according to a new CDC Vital Signs report. In addition, many of these children are not receiving the recommended medication, hydroxyurea, which can reduce complications such as pain and acute chest syndrome. Hydroxyurea can also improve anemia and quality of life.
Sickle cell anemia is the most severe form of sickle cell disease, which is a red blood cell disorder that primarily affects Black and African American people. It’s estimated that sickle cell disease affects approximately 100,000 Americans.
Many people with sickle cell anemia report barriers to receiving the recommended screening and treatment. Structural racism is one of those barriers. For example, despite their extensive health care needs, many people with sickle cell anemia do not have access to providers with expertise in treating the disease or report feeling stigmatized and having their symptoms dismissed when they do receive care. Other barriers include concerns among parents and providers about potential side effects and effectiveness of hydroxyurea.