While Americans are living longer than ever before, a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics shows that African Americans continue to die younger than their White counterparts from homicide and disease.
The study, “How Did Cause of Death Contribute to Racial Differences in Life Expectancy in the United States in 2010?” looks at life expectancy at birth between 1970 and 2010; researchers collected data directly from death certificates and compared rates by race and gender.
The researchers examined causes of death and how they impacted life expectancy between Black and White populations. Researchers then compared the causes of death and their influence on life expectancy between Black and White males born in 2010, and Black and White females born in 2010. The data did not examine socioeconomic status.
According to the report:
Life expectancy for the Black population was lower (3.8 years) than life expectancy for the White population because of higher death rates due to heart disease, cancer, homicide, diabetes, and perinatal [the weeks before or after birth] conditions, which accounted for 60 percent of the Black population disadvantage, the report says. Higher heart disease mortality for the Black population accounted for a loss of 1.007 years in life expectancy.
The report is especially relevant in the wake of the nation’s focus on crime as well as health care disparities among minorities. In terms of crime, Illinois lawmakers this week plan to hold a summit to address mounting violence.
So far this year, 232 people have been killed in Chicago alone, about 9 percent below the 10-year average for this time of year, the Daily News reports. And the month of July has been particularly bloody: Over the July 4th weekend, 12 were murdered with more than 60 people injured, and just this past weekend, another 6 people were killed and 17 were injured in shootings that reportedly began on Friday and continued through Sunday.
Niaz Kasravi, criminal justice director for the NAACP in Washington, D.C., expressed concern about the report’s findings and America’s response to urban violence, saying, “Every person should have an opportunity to live in peace and without the constant daily threat of violence and death.
“It is a right for which the U.S. stands up in countries across the globe,” she told NewsOne. “Yet in our own nation, our most vulnerable populations lack this same basic opportunity to be safe. Addressing the causes of what perpetuates this continued violence no doubt entails examining many issues from across the spectrum of government and civil society.
“There are three foundational issues that, unless addressed, will continue to feed the cycle of violence in our communities: the persistence of poverty and its disproportionate impact on communities of color, the war on drugs and the way it is enforced disproportionately in communities of color, and easy access to guns across this nation.”
As aforementioned, disparities in health care continue to present a problem for people of color in America. Blacks have a higher death rate than Whites for treatable diseases, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke, statistics show.
Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy, told NewsOne in the past that President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act should help remove some barriers in health care for African Americans.
Health Insurance Marketplaces should give uninsured Americans or those who buy their own insurance an easier way to shop for insurance coverage. Starting Oct. 1, 2013, Americans can enroll through the Marketplaces for health coverage beginning as early as Jan. 1, 2014.
“We do know that staying healthy relates to a variety of factors, including affordable health care, the environment and education,” Shelton told NewsOne during Minority Health Month in April. “We really hope to educate people about the importance of preventive care.”
Continuing to educate and provide the African-American community with health care is key to helping to stamp out deaths from treatable diseases, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. In terms of dealing with deaths from homicides, as Kasravi said, much work remains to be done.