The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a very sobering report yesterday about racial disparities in health problems in the U.S. Your income, your race and ethnicity, your gender, and other social factors, all have an impact on whether you are healthy or sick, and on whether or not you will die prematurely.
While it is, unfortunately, not news to hear that income and level of education are important factors in determining our health, the report has some surprises: Those more likely to die from drug overdoses are white people, over those in other ethnic groups. And binge drinking is up among those with better education and higher incomes.
The CDC’s report covers disparities at the national level in: access to health care access, exposure to environmental hazards, mortality, morbidity, behavioral risk factors, disability status and social determinants of health.
Here are some key points from the 22 essays in the report, from a CDC press release, with my emphases in boldface:
In 2007, non-Hispanic white men (21.5 per 100,000 population) were two to three times more likely to die in motor vehicle crashes than were non-Hispanic white women (8.8 per 100,000). The gender difference was similar in other race/ethnic groups.
In 2007, men (18.4 per 100,000) of all ages and races/ethnicities were approximately four times more likely to die by suicide than females (4.8 per 100,000).
In 2007, rates of drug-induced deaths were highest among non-Hispanic whites (15.1 per 100,000) and lowest among Asian/Pacific Islanders (2.0 per 100,000).
Hypertension is by far most prevalent among non-Hispanic blacks (42 percent vs. 29 percent among whites), while levels of control are lowest for Mexican-Americans (31.8 percent versus 46.5 percent among non-Hispanic whites).
Rates of preventable hospitalizations increase as incomes decrease. Data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality indicate that eliminating these disparities would prevent approximately 1 million hospitalizations and save $6.7 billion in health care costs each year.
Rates of adolescent pregnancy and childbirth have been falling or holding steady for all racial/ethnic minorities in all age groups. However, in 2008, disparities persist as birth rates for Hispanic adolescents (77.4 per 1,000 females) and non-Hispanic black adolescents (62.9 per 1,000 females) were three and 2.5 times those of whites (26.7 per 1,000 females), respectively.
In 2009, the prevalence of binge drinking was higher in groups with incomes of $50,000 or above (18.5 percent) compared to those with incomes of $15,000 or less (12.1 percent); and in college graduates (17.4 percent), compared to those with less than high school education (12.5 percent). However, people who binge drink and have less than $15,000 income binge drink more frequently (4.9 versus 3.6 episodes) and, when they do binge drink, drink more heavily (7.1 versus 6.5 drinks).
As the director of the CDC, Thomas R. Frieden is quoted in the January 13th New York Times: “‘Some of the figures, like the suicide rate for young American Indians, are just heartbreaking.’” Young American Indian adults have the highest suicide rates among ethnic groups, 25 per 100,000 population at age 21; for whites it is 14 per 100,000 population, 10 for blacks and 8 for Asians and Hispanics.
The report notes that, from 1980–2000, the U.S. population became older and more ethnically diverse—and, from 1992–2005, household income inequality increased. While not going into too much detail about the disparities documented in the report, the CDC does state that,
“Because vulnerable populations are more likely than others to be affected adversely by economic recession, the recent downturn in the global economy might worsen health disparities throughout the United States if the coverage and effectiveness of safety-net and targeted programs do not keep pace with needs”
Very sobering and a real call for ‘health equity’ in the U.S. Is it a surprise to anyone that those without health insurance lead sicker, shorter lives?
Photo by jakebwotha.