Racial Disparities in Heart Disease Mortality in the 50 Largest U.S. Cities
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- Benjamins, M.R., Hirschtick, J.L., Hunt, B.R. et al. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (2016). doi:10.1007/s40615-016-0300-6
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Heart disease is not only the leading cause of death in the U.S. but also the main contributor to racial disparities in life expectancy. Despite this, heart disease mortality rates and racial disparities in these rates are not readily available at the city level where they can be the most quickly and effectively addressed. We calculated age-adjusted heart disease mortality rates and corresponding racial rate ratios (RRs) and rate differences (RDs) for the non-Hispanic Black (Black) and non-Hispanic White (White) populations for the years 1990–1994 and 2005–2009 for the U.S. and the 50 largest cities therein. We then examined relationships between the disparities and city-level population indicators. Nationally, mortality rates were significantly higher among Blacks than Whites at both time periods. Larger improvements in rates for Whites compared to Blacks resulted in a significant increase in disparities over the 20-year period for 11 cities. There were 19,448 excess Black deaths in the U.S. annually. City-level income inequality, as well as the overall city and White median household income, contributed to these disparities. By identifying city-specific disparities and trends, health care providers, public health agencies, and researchers can target the areas with the most need and can look at cities without disparities for clues on how to best advance health equity in heart disease morbidity and mortality.