The mortality rate disparity among black and white U.S. residents dropped from 33 percent in 1999 to 16 percent in 2015, according to a CDC Vital Signs report released Tuesday.
For the report, researchers reviewed data from CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the National Vital Statistics System, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report found the age-adjusted "all-cause" death rate among black U.S. residents decreased by 25 percent between 1999 and 2015, falling from 1,135.7 deaths per 100,000 blacks in 1999 to 851.9 deaths per 100,000 blacks in 2015.
In comparison, the age-adjusted "all-cause" death rate among white U.S. residents dropped by 14 percent, falling from 854.6 deaths per 100,000 whites in 1999 to 735 deaths per 100,000 whites in 2015, according to the report.
Among black U.S. residents, the report found that between 1999 and 2015 death rates from:
- HIV dropped by 67 percent;
- Heart disease dropped by 39 percent;
- Cerebrovascular diseases dropped by 38 percent;
- Cancer dropped by 29 percent; and
- Diabetes dropped by 26 percent.
Those decreases were particularly strong among older individuals, the researchers found.
According to AHA News, the declines in death rates among black U.S. residents contributed to a drop in the disparity between death rates among blacks and whites in the United States. That progress was particularly evident when looking at death rates among black and white U.S. residents ages 65 and older.
The death rate among black U.S. residents older than age 65 declined by 27 percent between 1999 and 2015, the report found, while the rate among whites in that age group dropped by 17 percent. Beginning in 2010, blacks in that age group for the first time had a lower death rate than their white counterparts.
Leandris Liburd, associate director of CDC's Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, in a statement said, "Important gaps are narrowing due to improvements in the health of the black population overall."
However, disparities remained in the overall death rate between black and white U.S. residents, as well as in rates of some chronic conditions and healthy behaviors, MedPage Today reports. For instance, the report found that blacks in 2015 were more likely to be obese than whites and were less likely than whites to partake in leisure time physical activity. In addition, blacks of all ages were more likely than whites to report having difficulty accessing medical care in the past year because of cost. Further, the death rate for homicide among blacks remained static from 1999 to 2015.
Timothy Cunningham, a CDC epidemiologist and the report's lead author, also noted that "many younger African-Americans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are living and dying with chronic conditions that we more typically see in the older population." According to the report, life expectancy among blacks was nearly 3.5 years shorter than among whites in 2015, at 75.6 years and 79 years, respectively. That marked an improvement from 1999, when life expectancy was 71.8 years among blacks and 77.3 years among whites.
Liburd stressed the need to make further progress on reducing health disparities between black and white U.S. residents. He said, "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" (AHA News, 5/2; Smith, MedPage Today, 5/2; Beasley, Reuters, 5/2; Stein, "Shots," NPR, 5/2; Achenbach, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 5/2; Kolata, New York Times, 5/2).
How to address health inequity in your community
With the shift in health care to focus on optimizing the health of individuals and communities, health care organizations are creating new strategies to address health care disparities in access and patient outcomes.
Advisory Board has created the Health Disparities Initiative, which provides actionable resources on a series of strategic imperatives and special topics to achieve equity of care. Interested in seeing research or resources that address your biggest health equity problems?
Download our resource, "Building Community Partnerships to Reduce Disparities," which includes studies featuring providers who have successfully partnered with community organizations to address health disparities and social determinants of health. You'll also find tools that can guide your organization’s community partnership strategy.
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