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U.S. Black-White Life Expectancy Gap Narrowing

Further convergence relies on concerted efforts in public health

TUESDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- The gap between black and white life expectancy in the United States is narrowing, but concerted efforts in specific areas of public health are required to further narrow the divide, according to a study in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sam Harper, Ph.D., of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and colleagues analyzed data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics and found that for men, the black-white life expectancy gap widened by two years from 1983 to 1993. The three main causes were HIV, homicide and heart disease. From 1993 to 2003, however, the gap narrowed by 25 percent from 8.44 years to 6.33 years, largely due to improvements in mortality for blacks aged 15 to 49.

From 1983 to 1993, the gap in black-white female life expectancy increased by 0.5 years as improvements in stroke were counterbalanced by increased mortality due to HIV and slower heart disease declines. However, from 1993 to 2003, the gap narrowed by a year (from 5.59 years to 4.54 years), half of which was due to improved heart disease mortality rates, homicide and unintentional injuries.

"Further narrowing of the gap will require concerted efforts in public health and health care to address the major causes of the remaining gap from cardiovascular diseases, homicide, HIV and infant mortality," the authors conclude.

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