James Macinko (Cohort 4) More African Americans Die from Causes That Can be Prevented or Treated
More African Americans die before age 65 than their white counterparts, and preventable causes explain most of the racial gap, a new study finds.
Based on U.S. mortality rates between 1980 and 2005, death rates among people younger than 65 declined over time but a gap remained between black and white Americans.
By 2005, more than two-thirds of that racial difference could be attributed to African Americans' higher rates of death from preventable or treatable conditions -- like high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
"People should not be dying prematurely from stroke, hypertension, diabetes, colon cancer, appendicitis or the flu," lead researcher Dr. James Macinko of New York University said in a written statement.
"Our study," he added, "shows that while much progress has been made, our health care system is still failing to meet the very basic needs of some Americans."
Macinko and colleague Dr. Irma T. Elo at the University of Pennsylvania report the findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Past studies have pointed to differences in income, education and living conditions, as well as racial discrimination, as reasons for the nation's continuing racial gap in premature death risk.
The current findings, according to the researchers, reinforce the belief that unequal access to health care is a key factor.
"As the nation turns its attention to health care reform," Macinko said, "we now know that much can be done to reduce racial and ethnic health care disparities and to improve the health care for all Americans."
The RWJF Health & Society Scholars Program is designed to build the nation’s capacity for research, leadership and policy change to address the broad range of factors that affect health. Information about the RWJF Health & Society Scholars Program, including application information, can be found at www.healthandsocietyscholars.org.