“(The numbers) were surprising to people. I don’t think people realized the vast differences among these groups,” explains Patience White, MD, vice president of public health at the Arthritis Foundation and professor of medicine and pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. “In the past we’ve just lumped everyone together. Now we know there’s a difference in prevalence and the impact and burden of arthritis.”

Researchers don’t know why these differences between the subgroups exist. They speculate it could be due to different risk factors like obesity, the fact that some in these groups have little or no access to health care and insurance or because of cultural differences in the way people perceive and describe pain and limitation.

Delgado also says she believes it’s possible that some subgroups don’t actually have lower prevalence rates, but instead don’t have access to a doctor, medical care or health insurance. “It may be that Cubans don’t have as low a rate but don’t get diagnosed. That’s something that needs to be considered,” she says.

But experts agree that going forward, simply knowing there are differences will allow the medical community to bring specific data to the various populations to better motivate them to manage their condition through doctors’ visits, exercise, weight loss or classes that can teach techniques to manage the pain of arthritis.

“There may be different ways to approach these groups. We have to learn culturally sensitive ways to approach each subgroup to help them improve their lives,” Dr. White explains.

Delgado agrees. “I think we have to obviously target services to those people with high rates,” she says. “But across the board, there are over three million Hispanics diagnosed with arthritis and we know there are a lot of people who aren’t diagnosed but do have arthritis. So getting information out there that there are treatments and options and you don’t have to live with pain and discomfort is a message we need to get to people.”