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‘White-Only’ Screenings Halted

May 2, 2000

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ A hospital removed the bone-density scanner it brought to a state Capitol health fair after protests from minorities upset that the machine, which screens for osteoporosis, was accurate on white women only.

The machine was calibrated using genetic data on white women, prompting Bellevue Woman’s Hospital to post ``White women only″ signs around its booth at the fair Monday.

``I don’t understand why you would bring a machine for white women only to a public place where there are multiple races. That’s very insulting,″ said Rita Matthews, a state worker who is black. ``It’s like we’re back in the ’40s and ’50s.″

Ruth Fidler, who was conducting the tests, said she could not verify the accuracy of the test on non-white women. She agreed to pack up her machine and leave after state Assemblyman Keith Wright, chairman of the Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Legislative Caucus, told her it shouldn’t be used on public property.

The hospital promised to replace the machine today with one that is accurate on minority and white women.

``Knowing what we know now, we aren’t going to do that again,″ said Carole Salluzzo, spokeswoman for Bellevue in Niskayuna, about 10 miles west of Albany.

Ten million Americans, mostly elderly women, have osteoporosis, characterized by deterioration of the bone that can lead to fragility and an increased risk of fractures.

Until the last few years, medical literature has been virtually devoid of information about bone density in minority women. Minority woman had appeared in studies to have a genetically higher peak bone mass, so they were believed to be far less at risk for the condition.

But a more recent University of Connecticut study based on bone density scans of 100 black volunteers older than 65 found that one-third had osteoporosis or experienced enough bone loss to put them at risk.

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