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CDC Report Documents Extent Of Health Disparities

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Income, education level, sex, race, ethnicity, employment status, and sexual orientation are all related to health and health outcomes for a number of Americans, according to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Supplement released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The “CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report — United States, 2013,” is the second CDC report that highlights differences in mortality and disease risk for multiple conditions related to behaviors, access to health care, and social determinants of health – the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, age, and work.

The latest report looks at disparities in deaths and illness, use of health care, behavioral risk factors for disease, environmental hazards, and social determinants of health. This year’s report contains 10 new topics including access to healthier foods, activity limitations due to chronic diseases, asthma attacks, fatal and nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses, health-related quality of life, periodontitis in adults, residential proximity to major highways, tuberculosis, and unemployment.

“Better health for all Americans depends on focusing our efforts where they’re needed most,” said CDC Director Tom. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.” This kind of information helps us target health programs and promotes accountability for improving health equity at the federal, state and local level.”

Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • The overall birth rate for teens 15-19 years old fell dramatically — by 18 percent — from 2007 to 2010.  Birth rate disparities also decreased because the rates fell by more among racial and ethnic minority populations that had higher rates.  However, across states, there was wide variation, from no significant change to a 30 percent reduction in the rate from 2007 to 2010.
  • Working in a high risk occupation — an occupation in which workers are more likely than average to be injured or become ill — is more likely among those who are Hispanic, are low wage earners, were born outside of the United States, have no education beyond high school, or are male.
  • Binge drinking is more common among persons aged 18-34 years, men, non-Hispanic whites, and persons with higher household incomes.
  • While the number of new tuberculosis cases in the United States decreased 58 percent from 1992 to 2010, tuberculosis continues to disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities, including foreign-born individuals.

The report also underscores the need for more consistent data on population characteristics that have often been lacking in health surveys, such as disability status and sexual orientation.  To help ensure that such data are more available in the future, the Affordable Care Act required the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a set of uniform data collection standards for national population health surveys.  These standards were published in 2011.

“It is clear that more needs to be done to address the gaps and to better assist Americans disproportionately impacted by the burden of poor health,” said Chesley Richards, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Office of Public Health Scientific Services, which produced the report.  “We hope that this report will lead to interventions that will allow all Americans, particularly those most harmed by health inequalities, to live healthier and more productive lives.”

The full “CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report — United States, 2013” and related information on the individual chapters is available at http://www.cdc.gov/DisparitiesAnalytics .

The Affordable Care Act can help to reduce health disparities in the United States.  Through the Affordable Care Act, more Americans will qualify to get health care coverage that fits their needs and budget, including important preventive services that are covered with no additional costs. Reducing disparities in health insurance coverage and access to care will contribute to health equity and is a key strategy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Visit Healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY/TDD 1-855-889-4325) to learn more about open enrollment in the Marketplace that began October 1 and ends March 31, 2014.

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