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January 13, 2011

CDC report sheds light on racial health disparities

The CDC released today a first of its kind analysis of racial disparities in health with the hope of drawing attention to some persistent gaps and shedding light on unexpected ones.

While race was the primary focus of the report, it also delved into differences in health outcomes by income, gender and geography. The report is huge and has plenty of interesting -- and disturbing -- findings. Among the biggest disparities:

     + Black babies are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to die than infants born to women of other races

     + Heart disease and stroke, the nation's leading causes of death, account for the largest proportion of inequality in life expectancy between whites and blacks, despite the existence of low-cost treatment.

     + Men of all races are nearly four times more likely to commit suicide than women. American Indians and whites have nearly twice the rate of suicide as that of blacks, Asians and Hispanics.

     + Prescription drugs kill more people than illegal drugs, a reversal from 15 to 20 years ago. Drug deaths increased from 2003 to 2007 among men and women of all races except Hispanics. Whites have the highest rates of drug-related deaths.

The report doesn't dig too deeply into why the disparities exist -- except to point out that low income people tend to lack of access to health care. But the report intends to be a launching off point to better tackle the problems, CDC officials said. 

Many of the national statistics are mirrored here in Baltimore, where officials have been trying to combat similar disparities, notably between whites and blacks and rich and poor. This afternoon, in fact, Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot is giving a presentation to the city council on strategies to do so.

“Access to healthy foods, healthy housing, healthcare, safe neighborhoods, education and employment opportunities, and transportation – often collectively referred to as social determinants of health – play as important a role in keeping us healthy as they do in making us sick,” Barbot said in a statement. “Eliminating health disparities and achieving health equity in Baltimore City will only be possible through bringing together multiple public, private and community partners to address these issues collaboratively.”

The health department has been working to lower the city's high infant mortality rate through an initiative called B'more for Healthy Babies. Meanwhile, the city's Virtual Supermarket program tries to combat the existence of "food deserts" where fresh, healthy food is hard to come by.

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 3:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: General Health

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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.

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