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Topics in Minority Health Impact of Homicide on Years of Potential Life Lost in Michigan's Black Population

The public health impact of homicide varies among population groups and across geographic boundaries. Nationally, blacks have far higher homicide mortality rates and years of potential lost before age 65 (YPLL) than do other racial groups (1). In Michigan, to guide policy decisions and the allocation of resources for homicide prevention, the public health impact of this problem was defined for the state by estimating homicide-attributable YPLL for 1985 using standard CDC methodology (2).

When ranked by crude death rates, homicide (International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes E960-978)* was the 11th leading cause of death in Michigan in 1985. However, it was the fourth leading cause of total YPLL (Table 1). Homicide was the leading cause of YPLL for black males and the third leading cause for black females in the state. Among males, the homicide-attributable YPLL rate for blacks was 16.2 times that for whites (Table 2). For females, the YPLL rate for blacks was 7.2 times that for whites. Blacks constitute only 14.4% of the population but accounted for 68.3% of the total homicide-attributable YPLL in Michigan in 1985.

Firearms caused the majority of Michigan homicides in 1985 (65.3%), while assault with cutting and piercing instruments was the second most common mens of homicide (16.6%). Firearms accounted for 72.7% of the homicide-attributable YPLL among blacks (77.6% among black males and 51.5% among black females). For black victims, each firearm homicide resulted in an average of 34.9 YPLL, compared with 29.2 YPLL for homicides attributable to other causes. Reported by: DG Sienko, MD, J Thrush, MPH, KR Wilcox Jr, MD, State Epidemiologist, Michigan Dept of Public Health. Div of Field Svcs, Epidemiology Program Office; Epidemiology Br, Div of Injury Epidemiology and Control, Center for Environmental Health and Injury Control, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: Homicide-attributable YPLL in Michigan emphasize the urgent need to prevent premature mortality from homicide among black males and the importance of preventing injuries resulting from the use of firearms (3).

The homicide-attributable YPLL rate for black males in Michigan in 1985 was nearly twice that for black males nationally (34.1 per 1000 compared with 17.3 per 1000, respectively). Although blacks constitute 14% of Michigan's population and 12% of the nation's, the proportion of total homicide-attributable YPLL in Michigan involving blacks is 68% compared with 44% in the nation. These differences largely reflect the higher homicide rate for blacks in Michigan than for the U.S. black population. Black homicide victims are also slightly younger than white victims in Michigan; in 1985, they had an average of 33 YPLL per homicide death, compared with 31 for whites.

Examining descriptive data such as those presented here is important for public health agencies addressing homicide. In addition, analytic studies of potentially modifiable risk factors are needed. Because 67% of Michigan's homicides in 1985 occurred in the Detroit area, these data highlight the importance of implementing and evaluating prevention measures, such as the recently implemented handgun ordinance, in Detroit. At the state level, excess homicide has led to plans to integrate health department and police data bases for surveillance of homicide. These data may help define factors associated with excess homicide in Michigan.


  1. CDC. Premature mrtality due to homicides--United States, 1968-1985. MMWR 1988; 37:543-5. 2.CDC. Premature mortality in the United States: public health issues in the use of years of potential life lost. MMWR 1986;35(suppl 2S). 3.CDC. Premature mortality due to suicide and homicide--United States, 1984. MMWR 1987; 36:531-4. *This report includes homicides classified as injuries by legal intervention, ICD-9 codes E970-977 (E978, injury by legal execution, is not applicable in Michigan), although previous reports on homicide (1) exclude these deaths.

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