Monday, September 25, 2006

African-Americans, on average, die younger than whites, regardless of the money they make or the neighborhood in which they live

Tracy Wheeler:

In Summit County's poorer neighborhoods, whites live almost three years longer than blacks. In more-well-to-do neighborhoods, this gap grows into a chasm: Whites live to an average age of 76.4, compared with just 67.1 for blacks.

That's a difference of 9.3 years.

Nearly a decade of life, gone.

"I think it's the new civil rights struggle," said University of Dayton law professor Vernellia Randall. "African-Americans lag behind on nearly every health indicator, including life expectancy, death rates, infant mortality, low birth-weight rates and disease rates.

"We have shorter lives. We are quite literally dying from being black."

It's an ugly truth in Akron and Summit County. In Ohio. And across the United States, where a black baby born in 2003 can expect to live 72.7 years, while a white baby is expected to live to be 78.

American Indians and Alaska natives have an even bleaker life expectancy than blacks: 70.6 years. And at the other end of the spectrum, a newborn Asian-American girl can be expected to live the longest, until 85.8.

There's no single, simple reason for these disparities, but rather a complex set of social, economic, educational, cultural and racial circumstances. A lack of health insurance, a distrust of the medical establishment, poor personal choices and inferior health care all are factors.

Of all theindignities African-Americans have confronted in this nation's history -- from slavery to segregation to inequality in housing, education and income -- the health gap is the one that has remained virtually unchanged.

A 2005 report by former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher found that in 2002, African-Americans suffered 40.5 percent more deaths -- a total of 83,750 more -- than they would have if they shared the same mortality rate as whites. That works out to 3,138 = [100.0]untimely deaths a year among blacks in Ohio and 173 in Summit County.

"Surprisingly," Satcher's report said, "health disparities may be even more resistant to change" than other social problems African-Americans have faced.

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Genes don't drive racial health gap

A Black Plague


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