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While the gap between life expectancy rates for African Americans and Whites still exists, it has narrowed over the last two decades, according to “Health, United States, 2011,” a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released on Wednesday.

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Between 2000 and 2009, life expectancy at birth increased more for African Americans than for Whites, narrowing the life expectancy gap between these two racial groups, the report shows. In 2000, life expectancy at birth for Whites was 5.5 years longer than for the Blacks. By 2009, though, the difference narrowed to 4.3 years.

Hispanics still have higher life expectancies than both ethnic groups.

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While there is no one contributing factor, the rise in life expectancy rates could be attributed to improvements in treatments for cancer and strokes, which are most likely to affect African Americans, Amy Bernstein, health services researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics told NewsOne.

Overall, the report found that higher-earning, educated people tend to have lower rates of some chronic diseases, including obesity, compared to people with less income and lower levels of education.

“Looking at poverty and education is critically important, but it’s also helpful to look at the distribution by race and ethnicity because Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to live in poverty,” Bernstein said.

Those who are more educated are more likely to have jobs that afford them the ability to pay for health care services, experts say. They are also more likely to be able to afford exercise classes and partake in healthier behaviors.

The report’s findings are a part of the government’s 35th annual report on the status of the nation and was compiled by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Other findings include:

  • In 2007–2010, obesity among boys and girls 2 to 19 years of age decreased with increased education of the head of household. In households where the head had less than a high school education, 24 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls were obese, compared with households where the head had a Bachelor’s degree or higher education, in which 11 percent of boys and 7 percent of girls were obese.
  • In 2010, 19 percent of U.S. adults smoked, which is down 2 percent from 2009. Over the last decade, cigarette smoking among students in 12th grade has decreased from 33 percent to 22 percent for male students and from 30 percent to 16 percent for female students.
  • Between 1998 and 2008, birth rates declined 27 percent for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17.
  • In 2008–2010, the percentage of adults 18 to 64 years of age who reported not receiving or delayed seeking needed medical care due to cost in the past year was lowest in large fringe metropolitan counties (12 percent), compared with large central metropolitan counties (14 percent), medium and small metropolitan counties (15 percent), and nonmetropolitan counties (17 percent).

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