Spinal Cord Injuries and Health Inequities

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on September 08, 2021 # SCI Awareness, Community Education

Individuals in underserved communities with a spinal cord injury (SCI) have more difficulty acquiring resources, information, and care that can help improve their quality of life. When comparing individuals with SCIs in underserved communities to individuals in more privileged communities, we see a discrepancy in overall health, access to treatment, and information. Again, access is the key here. Without access to the proper resources, how can people with spinal cord injuries know how to better care for themselves and loved ones that have a spinal cord injury?

For many, access is not as simple as reaching out to their doctor or finding information online. Getting the proper care and treatment after a spinal cord injury can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical treatment, equipment, and medicine. For those with spinal cord injuries, these costs can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to cover and often result in the financial struggle of the individual and their supporting family members. For those who live in underserved communities, access to the right information, resources, and care is one of the biggest obstacles they face.

The U.S Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Minority Health highlights some discrepancies that contribute to the lack of equity in the treatment, care, and services provided for those with spinal cord injuries in underserved communities. One of the most alarming figures showed that non-Hispanic Black individuals' average household income was $43,771. When we compare that figure to non-Hispanic White households’ income averaging at $71,664, we begin to see just a small piece of the inequalities that ravage underserved communities and how it can affect their paralyzed and mobility-impaired populations. With 21% of non-Hispanic Black individuals living below the poverty line, paying for the medical equipment, treatment, and care becomes nearly impossible.

Income is only one factor that plays into the equity of access to resources and services for the paralyzed. However, it directly relates to other factors that impact an individual’s accessibility to the necessary server. In contrast, While 74.7% of White individuals have access to private health insurance, only 55.9% of Black individuals have private health insurance. Additionally, 43.5% of non-Hispanic Blacks rely on Medicaid and public health insurance for their care. Medicaid and public health insurance may be just enough to cover routine checkups and physicals. However, public health insurance and Medicaid are incapable of providing the proper care for those with spinal cord injuries and the litany of secondary conditions that come with SCI’s. When you also consider that 10.1% of black individuals are uninsured, the notion of health equity in the SCI community shrinks in the distance.

Our goal at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is to provide everyone with the information and resources they need to better care for, treat, and improve the quality of life for those with spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and mobility impairments. The National Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) provides free information and resources to equip you and your family members with the information you need to prepare you for your best and fullest life. The first step to achieving health equity in the world of paralysis is to give everyone access to the information they need to care for themselves.

Here at the PRC, you can find countless more resources to help you achieve a better quality of life, battle health inequalities, and find the resources you need for your specialized care. For more statistics on paralysis, check out our Stats about Paralysis factsheet. For more information on health insurance, look at our Medicare, Medicaid, and Insurance factsheet. You can check out resources and much more at the Reeve Foundation website.


Office of minority health. Black/African American - The Office of Minority Health. (n.d.). https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=61.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.