Black American communities experienced 1.6 million more deaths than the white population over the past two decades, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, according to two new studies focusing on a generation of health disparities. and injustice.
“This is our collective challenge as a country because it affects all of us so deeply,” said Marcela Nunez-Smith, associate dean for health equity studies at Yale University and co-author of the study on excess mortality. Years of life lost. “All potential. Who among them was on the path to scientific discoveries that changed our entire lives or created beautiful art and music? Who among them became a spiritual or religious leader? Never mind the economic impact.”
The causes of the death toll and economic loss, including mass incarceration, are many, but the root is the same, the reports published Tuesday in the influential medical journal JAMA: the unequal nature of American society.
This includes access to quality schools, good-paying jobs, living in safe neighborhoods, health insurance, and medical care—all of which affect health and well-being. For centuries, blacks have been legally denied these benefits, and researchers have yet to fully improve the results.
“To illustrate the point, one of the clearest examples of structural racism was the Social Security Act of 1935,” said Thomas Lavest, dean of Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and lead author of the study. Economic impacts of health disparities. They deliberately left out black domestic workers and farm workers. That is not fully explained. “
And black Americans’ shorter lifespans mean they don’t get what they put into Social Security. People born in 1960 can begin receiving full Social Security benefits at age 67, but According to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionBlack men born that year The average life expectancy was only 61 years.
Not only is that person paying in a system where they are not fully benefiting, but society is also losing out “because that person doesn’t exist as part of the economy,” Lavest said. “We paid for this man’s education, he got a job and paid taxes and he dies prematurely. The investment in this person will not be repaid by society.
This comes at a high cost in terms of military readiness, manpower, and dollars and cents.
Researchers have examined the economic burden of health inequity when a person dies prematurely or pays out-of-pocket and third-party payments to health care providers for emergency room visits, ambulance services, or vision and dental care.
They calculated the economic loss when they and their relatives were sick and unable to work. Or when employees come to work but are unhealthy and less productive.
The researchers extended their analysis to the general population and concluded that failure to achieve health equity cost the country $1.03 trillion in 2018. The price tag includes pressure on American adults over 25 without a college degree and on Native American, Asian, Black, Latino, and Pacific Islander populations.
More than two-thirds of the economic burden experienced by communities of color is due to premature deaths, with the majority of premature deaths occurring in the black community. Meanwhile, “adults with 4 years of college had zero premature mortality costs,” the report said.
For nearly 40 years, study after study has been conducted examining various health outcomes in the black community. Citing a groundbreaking study on black and minority health, “”Heckler Report” so named because it was written by Margaret Heckler when she was President Ronald Reagan’s health secretary. The two studies released Tuesday are no exception, citing that report as a clarion call to the nation that health disparities cause more than 60,000 deaths a year.
“It goes back to ‘The Philadelphia Negro’ with W.E.B. Du Bois, not just the ’85 report,” said Darrell Hudson, who conducted the study. Health Disparities at Washington University in St. Louis. “The results are not new. Our understanding of its strategies, policies and practices has improved.
In the decades since, modern medicine has seen major scientific breakthroughs and technological breakthroughs, but those advances have not benefited everyone equally. Taken together, researchers said, Tuesday’s reports dispel several myths about how society responded to the alarm a generation ago.
“We carry this idea with us over time, we’re constantly evolving,” says Jessica Owens-Young, an assistant professor at American University’s Department of Health Studies who has researched health equity. But, she says, “we can’t always predict when we’re going to continue to innovate that promotes and protects people’s health.”
Nunez-Smith, who co-chaired President Biden’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force, said the excess mortality report propagates the notion that “race is a biological determinant” of the causes of racial health disparities.
Nunez-Smith and other researchers analyzed death certificates from 1999 to 2020 to draw their conclusions about excess mortality — what would be expected if the observed number of deaths were the same as black and white death rates.
In the year From 1999 to the early 2010s, the report found, the excess mortality gap narrowed, falling 48 percent for black men and 61 percent for black women compared to their white counterparts. But in the year Progress has been made until it ends in 2020, the excess mortality burden will continue stubbornly.
Excessive deaths in the first year of the corona virus The report stated that the epidemic of the disease is more than the previous study year.
Infants are dying and years of life are lost, including adults over the age of 50. The gap in mortality between men and women is widening, the report said.
According to the study, the leading causes of excess mortality and loss of life include infant mortality, heart disease and cancer.
“These findings suggest that efforts to curb or eliminate mortality disparities have been minimally effective, and when progress has been made, it has been weak,” the report concluded.
Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale School of Medicine and co-author of the Excess Death Study, says the numbers point to something else: the need to identify “where we’re failing and the scope of the problem.”
“Why don’t we admit that this is really racism as a cause of death?” Krumholz asked. “What other health problem caused such a loss?”
The study found that black males experienced the highest rates of death and loss of life in all but 1 to 10-year-olds, a finding reinforced by Derek Griffiths, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Men’s Health Equity at the Racial Justice Institute. “We need to consider the ways in which anti-black racism is gendered and use that as a basis for how we need to intervene.”
Griffiths said the report mentions “structural racism, but this tool is very clear.” Anti-black racism manifests itself in attitudes and tropes. It’s that cultural narrative that shapes why we have these patterns.”
Many of these stereotypes are seen through the lens of gender, he said.
Research shows that black boys are perceived as older, stronger, and cleaner than their peers. Blacks are seen as criminals, intellectually inferior, the “fathers of death.” Black women have been relegated to racist snobbery, brutality, the “welfare queen.”
“We tend not to think hard enough about the structural drivers of racial injustice. He said talking about poor health outcomes for black men often gets “difficult.” We try to deal with this as a competitive situation without having to deal with gender.
Those differences reveal how men are socialized to cope with stress and their health. Also, researchers say, many government and health programs are dedicated to helping single mothers, but those same services are not available to men and single fathers.
“Over time, we find that socioeconomic status does not protect other people, especially black men who experience more discrimination, in the way that they get more income and education,” said the University of Washington’s Hudson.
Often, in search of upward mobility, blacks cross borders to study, earn a living, take out loans, explore predominantly white areas to raise children. That reasoning can be justified, Hudson says, because if a person is constantly crossing boundaries, they’re constantly experiencing stress—or so they’re assuming.
Stress is a physiological response, hard-wired. At the first sign of danger, the brain sounds the alarm by releasing nerve and hormonal signals that flood the bloodstream. Overexposure to those hormones weakens the body, causing it to get sicker and age faster, or “weather.”
Although climate is not limited to race, it is believed that blacks are particularly affected by the unique and persistent stress that racism creates. Studies show that blacks have Very high rates They have higher rates of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and stroke than white people, and they develop those chronic diseases up to 10 years earlier.
“Our bodies are not sophisticated enough to know that this is not a lion on the savannah, but a person who just looked at you funny,” said Hudson.The value of upward social mobilityHe said.
But there is reason for hope, and it can be found that the gap between black and white deaths during the coronavirus pandemic is shrinking and even beginning to reverse. In the year By 2021, whites had the second largest reduction in life expectancy, with a full year lost and blacks losing 0.7 years, according to the CDC.
“And why did that happen?” asked Reed Tucson, founder of the Black Coalition. He said there are two reasons. “One, of course, is the destructive message from many white political leaders, but the influence of black faith and the mobilization of community organizations and social and fraternal organizations.”
Tucson, an internist and former D.C. public health commissioner, said the Herculean efforts of the black community to “fight for our lives” despite their limited resources show that the federal government is “overdue for a sustainable and predictable approach.” Moderate funding to support the black community and its institutions.
“Even if we run the race with an antler on our back, we’ve shown that we can get there,” he said.