Project updates, commentaries, events and news about health across the nation from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps team.

New Study Explores Trends in Racial/Ethnic Mortality Disparities

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
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Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine’s November issue, a new study released today from researchers on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps team found that over the past ten years, the United States has either ceased or reversed years of progress in reducing racial/ethnic disparities in mortality across most age groups.

The study confirms the previously established and alarming trend that mortality rates for middle-aged White Americans are increasing, and recommends addressing its causes, such as the opioid epidemic. But, it also notes that the rate among Black Americans and American Indians remains substantially higher, not only for the middle-aged group but for all age groups. In addition, the size of the racial/ethnic disparity is much larger in other age groups, especially in the very young. “Alarmingly, we found that the mortality rate of infants and children was twice as high for African Americans than Whites and is now on the rise again,” shares lead investigator Keith P. Gennuso, lead scientist for the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

This pattern exists across several age groups, with mortality rate disparities widening rather than shrinking, especially among the very young and middle-aged. “It’s particularly worrisome that the trend in infants and children was largely being driven by increasing mortality rates in those with historically poorer health,” Gennuso said. “These populations have, and continue to face, societal barriers to good health.” Overall, the study examined racial/ethnic mortality disparities from people less than one year old to 74 years old over the past decade. By taking a deeper look throughout these cross-sections of ages, as well as at differences among racial/ethnic groups, the study helps paint a more complete picture of the scale and scope of the challenges facing the country.

The study is publicly available online here until mid-November 2019.

To learn more about how differences in health and opportunity exist not only by place but also by race and ethnicity, we encourage you to explore the 2018 County Health Rankings Key Findings Report.

To learn more about the significant disparities in who is most affected by premature death, we encourage you to explore the 2017 County Health Rankings Key Findings Report.