Date of Conferral
Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder in which the airway intermittently collapses and obstructs during sleep, is associated with increased cardiovascular and cerebrovascular morbidity and mortality, increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and depression. Treatment of OSA attenuates or reverses many of these associated risks. However, most cases of OSA are unrecognized and untreated. The two most recent studies using 1990s data found that only 6.5 - 15.4% of OSA cases, depending on severity, are clinically recognized in mixed gender populations. Based on a conceptual framework of improved physician awareness of OSA, and reduced diagnostic access bias with the increased availability of sleep laboratory services, increased OSA recognition since the 1990s was predicted. Study participants with clinically recognized OSA were identified using the resources of the Rochester Epidemiology Project, while the Berlin Questionnaire OSA high risk classification was used as a surrogate for prevalent OSA in this population. Analysis in a mixed gender population determined that OSA clinical recognition among those with prevalent OSA was 22.7 % (95% CI 19.6 - 25.8%) for mild or greater OSA severity leaving more than 75% of prevalent OSA clinically unrecognized and untreated in this population. Obesity and male gender were associated with increased likelihood of clinical recognition in bivariate and multivariate analyses, though even among obese men only 36.5% of OSA was clinically recognized. In order to support positive social change and address these inequities of OSA clinical recognition, strategies that enhance OSA recognition overall, and more specifically target recognition of OSA among women and the nonobese, should be developed and implemented. Further research regarding such strategies should consider whether they reduce OSA associated morbidity and mortality.