Topics covered include differences in response to pain, ethical implications of racial disparities, age and gender as contributing factors to inequalities, and ultimately, unequal treatment. The papers range from racial differences in the ability to access pain medications, and differences in the response to pain based upon race and age, to work that focuses on workers compensation claims among Caucasians and African Americans.

Commentary by Louis W. Sullivan, MD, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Barry A. Eagel, MD discuss the history of health and health care disparities in the United States, emphasizing the disadvantages suffered by African Americans and Hispanics. They specifically focus on infant mortality, AIDS, diabetes and violence found more often among racial and ethnic minority groups, and particularly how factors such as health behaviour, patient and physician attitudes, and inadequate access to resources contribute to gaps in health status. The authors also note the importance of cultural competency for health care providers.

Allen Lebovits, PhD, pain management specialist and Co-Director of the New York University Pain Management Center highlights the suggestion that "pain specialists provide better care and give faster attention to more profitable patients." Lebovits notes how even in end-of-life care situations, services are more available to those who fit the white, upper-class mould.

Gallagher, Green and Tait present this issue as a "call for action" to address and rectify the "unequal burden of pain." The editors believe that this is the first time that an entire issue has devoted to pain care for racial and ethnic minorities.; Source: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.