Study: Calif. Less Successful at Decreasing Life Expectancy Gap
California has not been as successful as other states at reducing the life expectancy gap between black populations and white populations, according to a new study published in Health Affairs, HealthyCal reports.
McGill University researchers used data from the National Vital Statistics System, which gathers information on all deaths occurring in the U.S. NVSS is managed by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (Kritz, HealthyCal, 8/15). The study excluded five states -- Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont -- because they had "very small black populations."
The data covered statistics from 1990 to 2009.
Overall, the study found that the national life expectancy gap between blacks and whites decreased by 2.7 years for men and 1.7 years for women during the time period examined.
In 1990, researchers found that California had the same life expectancy gap as New York, but California has not had as much success in decreasing the gap. In California, life expectancy grew by 0.35% annually among whites and 0.46% annually among blacks during the study period, compared with 0.25% annual growth in life expectancy among whites and 0.48% annually among blacks in New York (Harper et al., Health Affairs, August 2014).
Researchers attributed the differences to policy decisions, as New York City has made significant improvements in decreasing homicides and HIV/AIDS-related deaths.
Further, researchers said that although California had strong declines in tobacco use, heart disease and smoking rates during the time period, the gains may have benefitted whites more than blacks (HealthyCal, 8/15).
The study concluded, "Large state variations in the pace of change in the racial gap in life expectancy suggest that state-specific determinants merit further investigation." It states that the "obvious next step" is to research states -- including California -- "that have remarkable patterns of change" (Health Affairs, August 2014).
Sam Harper, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at McGill University, said, "Given that many social and health policies are implemented at the state level, looking at how specific states have fared can provide important clues for addressing these health inequalities," adding, "We want to know how to reduce these differences" (HealthyCal, 8/15).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.