Research has long shown that black people live sicker lives and die younger than white people.
Now, a new study, published Tuesday in NEVERhighlights the nation’s racial inequities and finds that the higher death rate among black Americans resulted in 1.63 million excess deaths relative to white Americans over more than two decades.
Because so many black people die young, with many years to live, their highest death rate from 1999 to 2020 resulted in a cumulative loss of more than 80 million years of life compared to the white population, the study showed. study.
Although the nation made progress in closing the gap between black and white death rates from 1999 to 2011, that progress stalled from 2011 to 2019. In 2020, the enormous number of deaths from covid-19, which hit African-Americans particularly hard — erased two decades of progress.
The study authors describe it as a call to action to improve the health of African-Americans, whose premature deaths are fueled by higher rates of heart disease, cancer and infant mortality.
«The study is very important for about 1.63 million reasons,» said Herman Taylor, study author and director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine.
“Real lives are being lost. Royal families lack parents and grandparents,» Taylor said. “Babies and their mothers are dying. We have been shouting this message for decades.»
High death rates among black people have less to do with genetics than with the country’s long history of discrimination, which has undermined educational, housing and job opportunities for generations of black people, said Clyde Yancy, study author and chief of cardiology. at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
African-American neighborhoods that were red-lined in the 1930s, designated as «high risk» for mortgages and other investments, they are still poorer and sicker todayYancy said. ZIP codes previously marked in red as well had higher rates of covid infection and death. “It’s very clear that we have an unequal distribution of health,” Yancy said. “We are talking about the freedom to be healthy.”
A complementary study estimates that racial and ethnic inequalities cost the united states at least $421 billion in 2018, based on medical expenses, lost productivity, and premature death.
In 2021, non-Hispanic white Americans had a life expectancy at birth of 76 years, while non-Hispanic black Americans could hopes to live alone to 71. Much of that disparity is explained by the fact that non-Hispanic black newborns are 2½ times as likely to die before their first birthday as non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic black mothers are more than 3 times more likely as non-Hispanic white mothers to die from a pregnancy-related complication. (Hispanics can be of any race or combination of races.)
Racial health disparities are so entrenched that even education and wealth don’t completely eliminate them, said Tonia Branche, a neonatal and perinatal medicine fellow at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago who was not involved in the JAMA study.
Black women with a college degree. are more likely to die of pregnancy complications than white women without a high school diploma. Although researchers can’t fully explain this disparity, Branche said it’s possible that stress, including systemic racism, affects black mothers’ health more than previously thought.
Black people carry a heavy burden of pain, which can undermine their mental and physical health, said Khaliah Johnson, chief of pediatric hospice care at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Given the high mortality rates throughout life, blacks are more likely than whites grieving the death of a close family member at some point in their lives.
“As black people, we all have a legacy of wrongful and unjustified loss and death that worsens with each new loss,” said Johnson, who was not involved in the new study. «It affects not only how we move through the world, but also how we live in relation to others and how we endure future loss.»
Johnson’s parents lost two children, one who died a few days after birth and another who died as a toddler. in a trial published last yearJohnson recalled, “My parents asked themselves on numerous occasions, ‘Would the outcomes for our children have been different, could they have received different care and lived, had they not been black?’”
Johnson said he hopes the new study gives people a greater understanding of all that is lost when blacks die prematurely. “When we lose these young lives, when we lose that potential, it has an impact on the whole of society,” he said.
And in the black community, «our pain is real, deep and profound, and deserves attention and validation,» Johnson said. “It often seems like people just brush it off and tell you to stop complaining. But the expectation cannot be that we just endure these things and recover.»
Teleah Scott-Moore said she is struggling with the death of her 16-year-old son, Timothy, an athlete who hoped to attend Boston College and study sports medicine. She died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2011, a rare condition that kills about 100 young athletes one year. Investigation shows that an underlying heart condition Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can lead to sudden cardiac death, often goes unrecognized in black patients.
Scott-Moore still wonders if he should have recognized the warning signs. She also blamed herself for failing to protect her two youngest children, who found Timothy’s body after he collapsed.
Sometimes, Scott-Moore said, she wanted to give up.
Instead, he said, the family created a foundation to promote education and health screenings to prevent such deaths. She hears from families around the world and supporting them has helped heal her grief.
“My pain comes back in waves, it comes back when I least expect it,” said Scott-Moore, of Baltimore County, Maryland. «Life goes on, but it’s a pain that never goes away.»
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