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Friday, March 24, 2000
Contact: Michael Greenwell
CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
(770) 488–5131
CDC, Division of Media Relations
(404) 639–3286

Facts About Racial Health Risk Factors

The 1997 data, from CDC’s state-based telephone survey of U.S. adults 18 and older show that risk factors within the racial and ethnic groups varied depending on where members of those populations live in the United States. The data also confirm earlier reports that, compared with Asians and Pacific Islanders and whites, members of other racial and ethnic minority groups have less access to health care, poorer health status, more health-risk behaviors, and use certain preventive services less often. Estimates are reported for states that had at least 50 respondents in a racial or ethnic group (50 states and the District of Columbia with estimates for whites; 35 states for African Americans; 35 states and Puerto Rico for Hispanics; 11 states for Alaska Natives; and 10 states for Asians and Pacific Islanders).

HEALTH DISPARITIES AMONG RACIAL AND ETHNIC GROUPS

African Americans

  • The highest percentage of African Americans reporting no leisure-time physical activity within the past month was in Kansas (54.6%), the lowest in Minnesota (17.8%)
  • Obesity was reported most often by African Americans in Nebraska (33.2%) and least often in African Americans in Nevada (7.6%)
  • The highest percentage of African American women over 50 years of age reporting having had a mammogram within the past 2 years was 85.5% in Florida and the lowest was 44.3% in Arkansas.

African Americans compared with other racial and ethnic groups

  • African-American adults were generally more likely to report having high blood pressure than other racial and ethnic groups
  • African Americans ranked second behind American Indians and Alaska Natives for not using safety belts when driving or riding in a car
  • African American women led women in other racial and ethnic groups in reporting having a Pap test within the recommended time frame and were as likely as white women to report having had either a mammogram or clinical breast exam within the recommended time frame

American Indians or Alaska Natives

  • American Indians in South Dakota were nearly three times more likely than American Indians in Oklahoma to report binge drinking (30.2% compared with 11.4%)
  • American Indian or Alaska Native adults reported having had their blood cholesterol checked most often in Oregon (75.4%) and least often in New Mexico (49.9%)

American Indians or Alaska Natives compared with other racial and ethnic groups

  • American Indians or Alaska Natives were more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to report current cigarette smoking and lack of seat belt use.

Asians and Pacific Islanders

  • Although the overall percentage of Asians and Pacific Islanders who reported smoking was low, it varied nearly 10-fold between Oregon (36.1%) and Maryland (4.7%).
  • The number of Asians or Pacific Islanders in New Jersey who reported having had their blood cholesterol checked and being told they had high blood cholesterol (35.8%) was more than double the number in New York (16.3%).

Asians and Pacific Islanders compared with other racial and ethnic groups

  • Asians and Pacific Islanders were least likely of all racial and ethnic groups to report fair or poor health status, obesity, having high blood pressure, current cigarette smoking, and not using a safety belt when driving or riding in a car

Hispanics

  • The percentage of Hispanics who reported not being able to see a doctor because of the cost was more than three times higher in Arizona (30.1%) than in Georgia (7.9%)
  • The percentage of Hispanics who reported not always wearing a safety belt was almost five times higher in Indiana and Kansas (57.5%) than in California (10.9%)

Hispanics compared with other racial and ethnic groups

  • Of the five racial and ethnic groups, Hispanics were most likely to report not having a routine physical examination
  • Hispanic women were least likely of the racial and ethnic groups to use preventive services such as Pap test, mammography, and clinical breast exam

Whites

  • Seat belt use by whites was much more common in Hawaii (87%) than in North Dakota (39.4%)
  • Whites 50 and older in the District of Columbia (31.2%) were three times more likely than whites of the same age in Mississippi (9.1%) to report having used a home-kit blood stool test within the past year to screen for colorectal cancer. Similarly, nearly half of whites 50 and older in Washington, D.C. (49.1%), compared with 15.6% for whites in Oklahoma, reported having had a sigmoidoscopy within the past 5 years to screen for colorectal cancer

Whites compared with other racial and ethnic groups

  • Whites were most likely to report high blood cholesterol. Although their percentages of health risk behaviors were in general lower than other racial and ethnic groups, many whites reported current smoking, no leisure-time physical activity, and not wearing safety belts when driving or riding in a car.

 

CONCLUSIONS

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.

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.

State-Specific Prevalence of Selected Health Behaviors, by Race and Ethnicity—Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 1997, is available at http://www2.cdc.gov/mmwr/mmwr_ss.html

For information about CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp/index.htm

For information about National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorctl/awareness.htm


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This page last reviewed March 24, 2000
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