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State-Level Variations in Racial Disparities in Life Expectancy

March 1, 2012 Comments off

State-Level Variations in Racial Disparities in Life Expectancy
Source: Health Services Research

Heterogeneous state patterns in racial disparity in life expectancy exist. Eliminating disparity in states with large black populations would make the greatest impact nationally.

Blacks continue to have a shorter life expectancy than whites in the United States (Wong et al. 2002; National Center for Health Statistics2010). The elimination of this disparity and other racial health inequities is a public health priority (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies 2003; Keppel 2007; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010). Studies have identified contributors to these disparities, such as poverty, psychosocial factors, and health care quality, but the determinants of disparities remain poorly understood.

Previous studies show geographic variation in racial differences in life expectancy (Murray et al. 2006; Ezzati et al. 2008). Investigators typically measure the magnitude of disparity, with the implicit assumption that interventions should target regions with large disparities rather than those with small disparities. We hypothesize that this assumption may not be correct for all states. Specifically, the public health and policy implications for geographic variations in life expectancy should not only account for the relative difference in life expectancy between blacks and whites but also the absolute life expectancy of each group and the population size.

To explore the prevalence and patterns of racial disparities at the state level, we calculated life expectancy by race and sex for 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC). We rank ordered each state by the size of the life expectancy gap between blacks and whites, and we also examined the contribution of each state to the overall disparity in life expectancy.

See:  Significant State-By-State Differences in Black, White Life Expectancy (Science Daily)

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