The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its first report on health disparities in the US. As expected, the lower the levels of income and education, the more likely people will be ill or at much higher risk.
The report says the country has made substantial gains in reducing disparities, but they still persist.
Among the findings:
• Lower income residents report fewer average healthy days.
• Air pollution-related disparities associated with fine particulates and ozone are often determined by geographical location. Local sources of air pollution can impact the health of people who live or work nearby. Both poor and wealthy can experience these unhealthy effectys, but poor and minority people are more likely to live in these areas.
• Large disparities in infant mortality rates persist. Infants born to black women are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to die than infants born to women of other races or ethnicities.
• Men of all race/ethnicities are two to three times more likely to die in motor vehicle crashes than are women, and death rates are twice as high among Native Americans.
• Men of all ages and race/ethnicities are approximately four times more likely to die by suicide than females. Though native Americans and non-Hispanic whtes have more than twice the suicide rates than blacks, Asian Pacific Islanders and Hispanics.
• Men are much more likely to die from coronary heart disease, and black men and women are much more likely to die of heart disease
• Rates of preventable hospitalizations increase as incomes decrease. Data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality indicate that eliminating these disparities would save about $6.7 billion in health care costs each year. There also are large racial and ethnic disparities in preventable hospitalizations with blacks experiencing a rate at more than double that of whites.
• Hypertension is by far most prevalent among non-Hispanic blacks (42% vs 28.8% among whites), while levels of control are lowest for Mexican Americans. People without health insurance are only about half as likely to have hypertension under control than those with insurance.
• Rates of adolescent pregnancy and childbirth have been falling or holding steady for all racial/ethnic minorities in all age groups. However, disparities persist as birth rates for Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks are 3 and 2.5 times those of whites, respectively.
Again and again, people on the lower end of the income scale -- those who have less access to regular health care -- experience the most preventable illnesses and deaths.
Public health laws have lowered the rates of many serious diseases for people of all income levels and races, but we need to do more.
Some disparities can be leveled with education, but we also need to get people the access to care that they need. If you don't know you have diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension, you won't be able to control it.
Equal access to health care means fewer disparities. It's as simple as that.
To read the report, visit http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/other/su6001.pdf