Health Care News, Social Determinants of Health

African American Death Rate Drops 25 Percent

Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The death rate for African Americans declined from 1999 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s good news, but African Americans are still more likely than white Americans to die at a young age. Although African Americans are living longer, their life expectancy is still four years less than that of whites. The report found that African Americans in their 20s, 30s and 40s are more likely to live with or die from conditions that typically occur at older ages in whites, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. African Americans aged 35-64 are 50 percent more likely than whites to have high blood pressure.

Social and economic conditions are large determining factors that contribute to the gap in health differences between African Americans and whites.  Access to preventive care is critical — and that’s where Community Health Centers come in. Twenty-three percent of health center patients are African American, according to NACHC. Because they get their care at a health center, these patients are more likely to receive timely access to preventive services such as pap smears, colorectal cancer screenings and mammograms. Health center patients also have lower rates of low birth weight than low income and racial/ethnic minority patients nationally. But it’s also not just about the type of care all health center patients receive, it’s about the quality of care.  Health center patients overall are more satisfied by the quality of their care.

The CDC report did not specifically cite the reason the gap has narrowed, but a CDC epidemiologist interviewed by NPR attributed the drop to African Americans benefiting more from decreases in the number of deaths from a variety of diseases, including AIDS and tobacco-related illnesses.