Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 431–443 | Cite as

Potential Gains in Life Expectancy from Reductions in Leading Causes of Death, Los Angeles County: a Quantitative Approach to Identify Candidate Diseases for Prevention and Burden Disparities Elimination

  • Alex Ho
  • Heena Hameed
  • Alice W. Lee
  • Margaret Shih


Despite overall gains in life expectancy at birth among Los Angeles County residents, significant disparities persist across population subgroups. The purpose of this study was to quantify the potential sex- and race/ethnicity-specific gains in life expectancy had we been able to fully or partially eliminate the leading causes of death in Los Angeles County. Complete annual life tables for local residents were generated by applying the same method used for the National Center of Health Statistics US life tables published in 1999. Based on 2010 Los Angeles County mortality records, sex- and race/ethnicity-specific potential gains in life expectancy were calculated using scenarios of 10, 20, 50, and 100 % elimination of 12 major causes of death. Coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death, was found to be most impactful on life expectancy. Its hypothetical full elimination would result in life expectancy gains ranging from 2.2 years among white females to 3.7 years among black males. Gains from complete elimination of lung cancer and stroke ranked second, with almost an additional year of life for each gender. However, marked disparities across racial/ethnic groups were noted from the elimination of several other causes of death, such as homicide, from which the gain among black males exceeded 13 times more than their white counterparts. By differentially targeting specific causes of death in disease prevention, not only can findings of this study aid in efficiently narrowing racial/ethnic disparities, they can also provide a quantitative means to identify and rank priorities in local health policymaking.


Life expectancy Mortality Cause of death Disparities 

Mathematics Subject Classification

92B15 General biostatistics 



This work was partially supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences under Grant T32ES013678. We thank Ricardo Basurto-Davila, PhD, MS, and Douglas Frye, MD, MPH for commenting on our final study report.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

This study involved secondary data analysis of publically available data and is exempted research. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of Interest

Alex Ho, Heena Hameed, Alice W. Lee, and Margaret Shih declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex Ho
    • 1
  • Heena Hameed
    • 1
  • Alice W. Lee
    • 2
  • Margaret Shih
    • 1
  1. 1.Office of Health Assessment and EpidemiologyLos Angeles County Department of Public HealthLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Preventive MedicineKeck School of Medicine of University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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