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By The Numbers: Health Inequalities From Economics And Race

Economy

The Huffington Post   Catherine Pearson First Posted: 02/26/11 11:52 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:35 PM ET

People have long known that health in the U.S. is not an equal thing. But now, thanks to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are numbers to prove it.

The first-ever "Health Disparites and Inequalities Report" shows startling differences in things like national mortality rates, behavioral risk factors and access to health care across various economic and racial groups in the U.S. According to the CDC, the goal is to now use the compiled data as benchmark for future progress. Additionally, by quantifying and highlighting major health disparities, the CDC hopes to inspire action and "facilitate accountability."

Some of the starkest findings of the report center around the dramatic disparities between high- and low-income Americans. Low-income residents report up to 11 fewer "healthy" days per month than their high-income counterparts. Also notable: Preventable hospitilzation rates increase greatly as income decreases.

If there were no disparities in this area, the CDC estimates that the U.S. would save $6.7 billion in health care costs every year.

Other parts of the study focused on cataloging health outcomes and access to health care according to race. Hypertension, for example, is more prevalent in non-Hispanic blacks (42 percent) than whites (28.8 percent). Non-Hispanic blacks also have the highest prevalence of obesity, while whites have higher rates of suicide. African-American infants are up to three times more likely to die than infants born to women of other ethnicities.

Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said that the report, while significant, is very much a first step. Frieden wrote:

Differences in health based on race, ethnicity, or economics can be reduced, but will require public awareness and understanding of which groups are most vulnerable, which disparities are most correctable through available interventions, and whether disparities are being resolved over time.
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