Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health
Large disparities exist between minorities and the rest of Americans in major areas of health. Even though the overall health of the nation is improving, minorities suffer from certain diseases up to five times more than the rest of the nation. President Clinton has committed to a reform project to eliminate disparities in six areas of minority health by the Year 2010. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be jumping in on this huge battle. The six areas that will be focused on are: Infant Mortality, Cancer Screening and Management, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, HIV Infection and AIDS, and Child and Adult Immunizations.
Infant mortality is a worldwide indicator of a nation’s health status. Even though infant mortality has declined steadily over the past several decades, the United States ranks 24th in infant mortality, compared to other industrialized nations. Compared with the national average in 1996 of 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, the largest disparity was among blacks with a death rate of 14.2 per 1,000 live births in 1996, which is almost 2½ times that of white infants (6 deaths per 1,000 in 1996). American Indians as a whole had an infant death rate of 9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1995, however some Indian communities have an infant mortality rate almost twice that of the national rate. The same applies to the Hispanic community (rate of 7.6 deaths per 1,000 births in 1995) and the Puerto Rican community (rate was 8.9 deaths per 1,000 births in 1995).
These disparities may be attributed to the amount of prenatal care that pregnant women of different ethnicities receive. In 1996, 81.8% of all women in the nation received prenatal care in the first trimester (the most important trimester to receive care). That rate was up for the seventh consecutive year from 75.5% in 1989. Only 71% of black and Hispanic women received prenatal care, compared with 84% of White women.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 544,000 people each year. Minority groups suffer more from cancer than any other group. Black men and women have a cancer death rate about 35% higher than whites, and the death rate for cancer in black men is almost 50% higher than white men. Also, the death rate of lung cancer among blacks is about 27% higher than for whites. The incidence rate for lung cancer in black men is 50% higher than in white men.
Cardiovascular disease, mainly coronary heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death among all racial groups in the United States. A disproportionate number of people in minority and low-income populations die or become disabled from cardiovascular disease. The death rate for coronary heart disease for the nation decreased by 20% from 1987 to 1995, but for blacks, the overall decrease was only 13%. The coronary heart disease death rate for Asian Americans was 40% lower than whites, but 40% higher for blacks in 1995. High blood pressure and hypertension can also increase the risk for coronary heart disease, and it has been shown that racial minorities have higher rates of hypertension, tend to develop hypertension at an earlier age, and are less likely to receive treatment. Also, only 50% of American Indians, 44% of Asian Americans, and 38% of Mexican Americans have had their cholesterol checked in the past two years. Cardiovascular disease is also the leading cause of death among people with diabetes. Over 50% of all people with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the country, afflicts approximately 70% more blacks than whites. Twice as many Hispanics suffer from diabetes than whites and the prevalence rate among American Indians and Alaska Natives nearly double that of the total population. People with diabetes not only face a shortened life span, but also the possibility of...