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Friday, March 24, 2000
New CDC report identifies state-by-state gaps in health risk factors for racial and ethnic groups
CDC's first state-by-state look at risks for chronic diseases and injury for the five major racial and ethnic groups identifies wide disparities, even among members of the same racial and ethnic group living in different states. The report confirms earlier reports that most racial and ethnic groups, including African-Americans and Hispanics, have more health-risk behaviors, and utilize preventive services less often.
"For the first time, states will be able to identify health gaps between racial and ethnic groups and also compare their overall state experience with that of other states," said CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH. "Most of the risk behaviors associated with chronic diseases and injury can be changed through more effective state and local public health programs, more encouragement from health practitioners for their patients to reduce harmful behaviors and adopt healthier ones, more counseling on preventive measures from public and private health care facilities and insurers, and more convenient ways to access preventive services. States can use these new data to develop and evaluate programs to reduce the health risks of all racial and ethnic groups."
Since February 1998, the Department of Health and Human Services has led a Clinton
Administration initiative to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in six key areas
of health by the year 2010: infant mortality, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS,
cancer, and adult and childhood immunization. President Clinton has asked Congress for $400
million over five years to fund a variety of prevention, education and outreach activities to
address these disparities in communities throughout the country.
Besides collecting data about racial and ethnic health disparities, CDC is working to
prevent and reduce them through the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH
2010) program, part of the President's racial disparities initiative. In September 1999, CDC
awarded $9.4 million to community coalitions in 32 states to address the six priority areas in
More research is needed to understand differences by state in risk factors for the same racial and ethnic groups. It should be noted that racial and ethnic categories are made up of people from different parts of the world and different cultures; widely varying socioeconomic status and education levels likely account for some of the differences.
The report notes that improvements in risk factors that lead to chronic diseases and injury can be achieved by all racial and ethnic groups. In the early 1980s, use of mammography was low among women, particularly black women, but the number of women who received timely screening for breast cancer doubled between 1987 and 1992, and the gap between whites and gaps almost disappeared.
"I'm extremely hopeful that the release of these data will serve as a springboard for new studies that get closer to the true causes of racial and ethnic differences in health," said Walter W. Williams, M.D., M.P.H., CDC's associate director for Minority Health.
Examples of state-by-state variation from the report, "State-Specific Prevalence of Selected Health Behaviors, by Race and Ethnicity_Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 1997," include
A cross-section of HHS agencies are conducting activities to address disparities: an internal workgroup has been organized in each of the six health areas that are the focus of the health disparities initiative; a Spanish-language campaign to encourage more Hispanic families to get their children immunized was unveiled last year; more than 250 grants have been awarded to Native American communities for programs to prevent diabetes, and $156 million was targeted last year to improve HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in minority communities; and HHS is asking Congress for $20 million in fiscal year 2001 to establish a coordinated center for health disparities research within the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health. The department has also opened a web site devoted exclusively to racial and ethnic health disparities, at http://www.raceandhealth.hhs.gov.
This page last reviewed March 24, 2000