CDC Studies Focus on Racial Disparities Between African Americans, Whites
CDC this week in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published several studies addressing racial disparities in health care. Findings from the studies appear below.
- Causes of death: The three leading causes of death -- heart disease, cancer and stroke -- are the same for whites and African Americans in the United States, according to one study, Reuters reports (Reuters, 1/13). However, African Americans have higher rates of all three of the conditions, as well as of almost every other major disease, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Wahlberg, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/14). African Americans are 30% more likely to die from heart disease and cancer than whites and 40% more likely to die from stroke, the study found. In addition, compared with whites, African American have an HIV/AIDS mortality rate 8.7 times higher, a homicide rate 5.7 times higher and a mortality rate for blood stream infections 2.3 times higher, according to the study. Whites are 30% more likely than African Americans to die from Alzheimer's disease and 60% more likely to commit suicide, the study found (Atlanta Journal-Constitution chart, 1/14).
- Hypertension: About 41% of African Americans have high blood pressure, compared with approximately 26% of whites and Mexican Americans, according to a separate study. While African Americans are more likely to be aware of their hypertension than whites, 30% of both African Americans and whites receive treatment for the condition, the study found. According to the report, "To reduce disparities and improve high blood pressure prevention and control among U.S. adults, public health officials and clinicians need to increase their efforts to treat and control blood pressure levels among persons with hypertension and promote physical activity, nutrition changes, weight reduction or management, stress reduction and routine blood pressure screening" (Reuters, 1/13).
- Infectious diseases: The rate of gonorrhea among African Americans is 24 times the rate among whites, while rates of chlamydia and syphilis are nine times higher for African Americans than for whites, according to CDC data. The study also found that African Americans have higher rates of malaria, typhoid fever, hepatitis B and the bacterial infection shigellosis, while whites experience higher rates of lyme disease and giardiasis, an intestinal disease contracted from waterborne parasites (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/14).
- Stroke: Another report, which surveyed 1,391 stroke survivors, found African Americans who had had a stroke were more likely to experience limitations in activity than whites. Forty-two percent of African Americans reported that walking 10 steps without rest was extremely difficult, compared with 29% of whites, the study found. In addition, half of African-American respondents said they used special equipment for daily functioning, compared with 36% of whites, according to the survey. The report states, "To meet national health objectives of increasing quality and years of healthy life and eliminating health disparities, greater efforts are needed to implement prevention and intervention activities for stroke among black populations, particularly among young to middle-aged adults" (Reuters, 1/13).
The reports are available online. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.