Health & Wellness

African American Death Rate Drops 25 Percent 

The death rate for African Americans (blacks) declined 25 percent from 1999 to 2015, according to a CDC Vital Signs report released earlier this year. But disparities still persist between blacks and whites. Although blacks as a group are living longer, their life expectancy is still 4 years less than that of whites.

Disparities in all age groups are narrowing because death rates are declining faster among blacks than among whites. The overall disparity in death rates between these two races for all causes of death in all age groups was 33 percent in 1999 but fell to 16 percent in 2015. The racial death rate gap closed completely for deaths from heart disease and for all causes of death among those 65 years and older.

Of concern, the study also found that blacks in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s are more likely to live with or die from conditions that typically occur at older ages in whites, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Risk factors for some diseases, such as high blood pressure, may go unnoticed and untreated during these early years. Notably, the death rates for homicide among blacks did not change over the 17 years of the study.

The report also describes improvements in other causes of death, such as a dramatic decrease of about 80 percent in HIV deaths among 18- to 49-year olds from 1999-2015. Dramatic drops in HIV deaths were also seen among whites. Still, a wide disparity remains with blacks seven to nine times more likely to die from HIV.

“We have seen some remarkable improvements in death rates for the black population in these past 17 years. Important gaps are narrowing due to improvements in the health of the black population overall. However, we still have a long way to go,” said Leandris Liburd, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.A., associate director, CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity. “Early health interventions can lead to longer, healthier lives. In particular, diagnosing and treating the leading diseases that cause death at earlier stages is an important step for saving lives.”

Social and economic conditions, such as poverty, contribute to gaps in health differences between blacks and whites, according to the report. In all age groups, the analysis showed that blacks had lower educational attainment and home ownership and nearly twice the rate of poverty and unemployment as whites. These risk factors may limit blacks’ access to prevention and treatment of disease. Other risk factors that affect health outcomes for blacks include obesity and less physical activity.

CDC researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, National Vital Statistics System and CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to examine factors that may influence disparities across the life span.

Among the key findings from the report:
* Blacks ages 18 to 64 are at higher risk of early death as whites.
* Disparities in the leading causes of death for blacks compared with whites are pronounced by early and middle adulthood, including homicide and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
* Blacks ages 18-34 years and 35-49 years are nine times and five times, respectively, as likely to die from homicide as whites in the same age groups.
* Blacks ages 35-64 are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure as whites.
* Blacks ages 18-49 years, are two times as likely to die from heart disease as whites.
* Blacks have the highest death rate for all cancers combined compared with whites.

“It is important that we continue to create opportunities for all Americans to pursue a healthy lifestyle,” said Timothy Cunningham, Sc.D., lead author and epidemiologist with the Division of Population Health, CDC. “Public health professionals must work across all sectors to promote health at early ages.”

Public health agencies and community organizations should continue to implement programs proven to reduce health disparities, and partner with other sectors, including education, business, transportation, and housing, to create social and economic conditions that promote health starting in childhood to continue to close the gap in health outcomes. Proven prevention measures such as healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco cessation, disease screenings, and medication adherence remain important to reduce disease and early death.

The Federal government collects data on prevention measures and risk factors that impact health through programs such as Healthy People 2020. For more information on CDC efforts to reduce disparities through prevention and removing barriers to health equity, visit

About Vital Signs
Vital Signs is a monthly report that appears as part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vital Signs provides the latest data and information on key health threats: cancer, obesity, tobacco use, motor vehicle passenger safety, prescription drug overdose, HIV/AIDS, health care-associated infections, cardiovascular health and others.


CNN Says Childbirth is Killing Black Women in the U.S.

Nationwide — According to CNN and a documentary series called Giving Birth in America, every year about 700 to 1,200 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications in the United States. And, Black women are about three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy or delivery complications than white women.

CNN interviewed Dr. Michael Lindsay, chief of service for gynecology and obstetrics at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, and he says that its complicated to answer why there has been a rise in deaths and why black women are more affected than women of other races.

He comments, “The racial divide in maternal deaths has been persistent for decades, so the rate is not something new. It’s something we’ve known for a number of years.”

Other doctors, however, say that have an idea why.

They blame the differences in overall health and chronic illnesses among black and white women as a driving factor for the disparity. For instance, rates of obesity and high blood pressure (which are major risk factors for pregnancy complications) tend to be higher among black women.

Others point to differences in socioeconomic status, access to health care, education, insurance coverage, housing, and levels of stress and community health among black and white women.

Read the full report at

To learn more about the organization behind the documentary, visit


Making the Most of Medicare Open Enrollment

(Family Features) Eating well and regular exercise are part of a healthy lifestyle, and so is making sure you have the right health care coverage. Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment period is a good time to review your current coverage and decide if there may be a better fit based on changes to current plans, your budget or health needs.

During Medicare Open Enrollment, which runs Oct. 15-Dec. 7, 2017, you can enroll in or make changes to your Medicare health or prescription drug plan for coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2018. If you miss the deadline, you will likely have to wait a full year before you are able to make changes to your plan.

To make Medicare Open Enrollment part of your healthy lifestyle, follow these five steps:

Click to download PDF:14009_press(Medicare Open Enrollment)Nov.2Edition

1. Review your current plan notice. Read any notices from your Medicare plan about changes for next year, especially your “Annual Notice of Change” letter. Look at your plan’s information to make sure your drugs are still covered and your doctors are still in network.

2. Think about what matters most to you. Medicare health and drug plans change each year and so can your health needs. Do you need a new primary care doctor? Does your network include the specialist you want for an upcoming surgery? Does your current plan cover your new medication? Does another plan offer the same coverage at a lower cost? Take stock of your health status and determine if you need to make a change.

3. Find out if you qualify for help paying for Medicare. Learn about programs in your state to help with the costs of Medicare premiums (through Medicare Savings Programs), your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductibles, coinsurance and copayments, and Medicare prescription drug coverage costs (through Extra Help). Visit or call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to learn more.

4. Shop for plans that meet your needs and fit your budget. Starting each October, you can use Medicare’s Plan Finder tool at to see what plans are offered in your area. A new plan may:
• Cost less
• Cover your drugs
• Let you go to the providers you want, like your doctor or pharmacy.

If you find your current coverage still meets your needs, then you’re done. Remember, during Medicare Open Enrollment, you can decide to stay in Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage Plan. If you’re already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch back to Original Medicare.

5. Check your plan’s Star Rating before you enroll. The Medicare Plan Finder is up-to-date with the Star Ratings for Medicare health and prescription drug plans. Plans are given an overall quality rating on a 1-5 star scale, with 1 being the lowest performing and 5 stars representing excellent performance. You can use Star Ratings to compare the quality of health and drug plans being offered.

For more information, visit or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and say “Agent.” TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048. Help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends. You can also get personalized health insurance counseling at no cost to you from your SHIP by visiting

Information provided by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.