According to a recent CDC Vital Signs report released in May 2017, the death rate for African Americans has declined by 25 percent from 1999 to 2015. Although this is an impressive accomplishment, blacks still have a life expectancy which is 4 years less than a White person. The death gap closed completely in those dying from heart disease and for all causes of death in those 65-years-old and older.
The study found that blacks aged 20-40 years old were more likely to live with or die from conditions that do not affect White men and women until they are much older. These illnesses include heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Some of these conditions may go unnoticed, therefore; untreated during the early years causing the mortality rate to increase. Unfortunately, the death rates for homicide in black Americans did not change over the 17 years included in the study.
In 18-to-49-year-olds with HIV, the deaths decreased by around 80 percent. These decreases also were seen among whites, with blacks still seven to nine times more likely to die of HIV. Researchers believe that these disparities may be a result of social and economic conditions including poverty which may cause less access to health check-ups which may catch illnesses early on. The blacks also had lower educational attainments and home ownership and were nearly twice the rate of poverty and unemployment in comparison to whites. Other risk factors include obesity and less physical activity according to the research data.
“We have seen some remarkable improvements in death rates for the black population in these past 17 years. Important gaps are narrowing due to improvements in the health of the black population overall. However, we still have a long way to go,” said Leandris Liburd, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.A., associate director, CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity. “Early health interventions can lead to longer, healthier lives. In particular, diagnosing and treating the leading diseases that cause death at earlier stages is an important step for saving lives.”
CDC researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, National Vital Statistics System, and CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to examine factors that may influence disparities across the life span.
Among the key findings from the report:
- Blacks ages 18 to 64 are at higher risk of early death than whites.
- Disparities in the leading causes of death for blacks compared with whites are pronounced by early and middle adulthood, including homicide and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Blacks ages 18-34 years and 35-49 years are nine times and five times, respectively, as likely to die from homicide as whites in the same age groups.
- Blacks ages 35-64 are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than whites.
- Blacks ages 18-49 years, are two times as likely to die from heart disease than whites.
- Blacks have the highest death rate for all cancers combined compared with whites.
“It is important that we continue to create opportunities for all Americans to pursue a healthy lifestyle,” said Timothy Cunningham, Sc.D., lead author and epidemiologist with the Division of Population Health, CDC. “Public health professionals must work across all sectors to promote health at early ages.”
The CDC officials said that Public health and community organizations can help close these gaps by providing education, business, transportation, and housing, to create social and economic conditions that will promote healthy outcomes. Healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco cessation, disease screenings and medication adherence remain important to reduce preventable disease and/or early death.
The Federal government collects data on prevention measures and risk factors that impact health through programs such as Healthy People 2020. For more information on CDC efforts to reduce disparities through prevention and removing barriers to health equity, visit www.cdc.gov/healthequity.
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