NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Addressing Health Inequalities – Improving treatment for common hair loss

One of the most common types of hair loss is called alopecia areata (AA). AA is an autoimmune condition, whereby the immune system – which normally protects the body from viruses and bacteria – mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. This causes patchy hair loss, which in some people can progress to complete loss of all scalp and body hair.

Ongoing hair loss is linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and unemployment.

The Royal College of General Practitioner’s national patient registry estimates there are currently around 400,000 people with AA in the UK.

AA is more common in some minority ethnic groups and in those living in lower socioeconomic areas. However, these groups are less likely to be referred to hospital to see a dermatologist or access specialist treatment, identifying an important health inequality.

Addressing Health Inequalities – Improving treatment for common hair loss

The project:

Working with the Salford Health Improvement team we will explore pathways and barriers to hospital referral that people from different backgrounds might experience and identify ways to improve fair and equal  access to specialist services.

We will set up a rapid access clinic to allow early assessment and treatment of suspected AA. This clinic will help us to better understand AA in different populations.

A researcher perspective:

Hair loss can have a profound impact on someone’s mental health. Understanding the drivers for alopecia development, and barriers preventing certain people getting appropriate help, will allow development of personalised medicine approaches that may ultimately improve the longer-term prognosis of these conditions.

Dr Matthew Harries

Consultant Dermatologist and Manchester BRC Inflammatory Hair Diseases Programme Co-Lead

A participant perspective:

“It is essential to represent all ethnicities in research and study programmes as the genetic makeup of skin can be affected in different ways and one type of treatment is often not best for all. In considering the needs for the majority the minority often get overlooked. It is vital to address the health inequality in research areas such as dermatology, for future generations.”

Shenaaz Khan

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee member, Alopecia UK and alopecia patient