CDC Report: US Health Disparities Persist

New CDC report highlights major health disparities and inequalities among various US populations. Image:

New CDC report highlights major health disparities and inequalities among certain US populations. Image:

Although death rates from heart disease and stroke are declining overall, rates of premature cardiovascular death among non-Hispanic black individuals remain 50% higher than among non-Hispanic white individuals, according to a new report on health disparities and inequalities from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The finding is one of several health disparities highlighted in the report, a supplement to the November 22 edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In the melting pot of the United States, health disparities among different population subgroups remain one of the biggest challenges in medicine and public health and are major reasons why the United States still lags behind dozens of other nations when it comes to overall life expectancy and quality.

The report provides an update on these disparities within the realms of many different health indicators. These include social determinants of health (such as education, income, employment), factors affecting health care access such as insurance coverage, behaviors that pose health risks (such as smoking and binge drinking), and environmental exposures (such as work-related injuries). It also describes disparities in outcomes related to diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, HIV infection, and tuberculosis infection), as well as disparities associated with homicide and suicide.

Some of the other most notable findings of the 189-page 2013 Health Disparities and Inequalities Report include:

  • Binge drinking is most frequent in non-Hispanic whites and American Indians/Alaskan natives, as well as in those with higher household incomes.
  • Fatal work-related injuries are most frequent among Hispanic and foreign-born individuals.
  • All racial/ethnic minorities except Asians continue to experience higher rates of new HIV diagnoses than whites, although the relative differences decreased from 2008 to 2010. Rates of HIV infection are increasing among men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly young black MSM.
  • The infant mortality rate declined 10% from 2005 to 2010 but continues to be highest among non-Hispanic black women, with a rate more than twice that of non-Hispanic white women.
  • The homicide rate was lower in 2009 than in 2007 but continues to be at least 6 times higher for non-Hispanic blacks than non-Hispanic whites.
  • The suicide rate continues to be highest among American Indians/Alaskan natives and non-Hispanic whites. In particular, the proportion of suicides among people younger than 35 years is considerably higher among American Indians/Alaskan natives than any other racial/ethnic group.

The findings are intended to provide guidance for clinicians, public health practitioners, policy makers, and researchers on future directions in which to address health disparities. The authors noted that much of the data on disparities based on sexual orientation and disability were missing because of inconsistent reporting and will be further investigated in future health surveys.

The report is the second CDC report of this nature, with the first released in 2011. A total of 29 specific topics were examined, 10 of which were not included in the 2011 report. This report complements the yearly National Healthcare Disparities Report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which was last updated in 2012.

Categories: Public Health