Mortality study shows racial disparity

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 6, 2003

According to a study by the Alabama Department of Public Health, persons of minority status have higher death rates and a lower life expectancy of whites in the state.

The study was conducted using the death rates from 1998 through 2000.

For both racial groups studied, the leading causes of death were generally heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The fourth and fifth-leading causes of death for blacks and other races were listed as accidents and diabetes, however, while for white, the fourth and fifth-leading causes were respiratory diseases and accidents.

However, in Covington County, the numbers were quite different, according to the Alabama Center for Health Statistics.

In 2001, there were 488 deaths, or a 12.9 percent death rate overall, with whites accounting for 444 deaths or a 13.7 percent death rate while blacks comprised 44 of those deaths for a 8.4 percent death rate.

In 2000, there were 501 deaths or a death rate of 13.3 percent overall, with white comprising 453 of those deaths, or 14.0 percent while blacks and others were listed at 48, or 9.2 percent.

In 1999, there were 515 deaths overall, or a death rate of 14.3 percent, with whites totaling 451 of those for a rate of 14.5 percent and blacks and others composing 64 of those for 13.1 percent.

Overall in the state, though, Alabamians of black and other races have a life expectancy at birth of 72 years compared to 75 years for whites.

The study points out while black persons and persons of other races die from a variety of causes, including the major reasons such as heart disease, white Alabamians are at a noticeably higher risk for mortality from accidents, suicide and lung-associated diseases such as cancer.

The Center for Health Statistics of the ADPH released these findings in the Alabama Atlas of Racial Disparities in Mortality, a geographical study of racial disparities in the state.

The atlas is also a useful resource to make communities aware of their overall health so they can implement appropriate prevention activities.

Of course, the risk of dying from certain causes can be modified by lifestyle change. Cigarette is the most important risk factor for respiratory diseases. Three of the risk factors for diabetes are physical inactivity, being overweight and having high blood pressure.

Motor vehicle fatalities are a major component of accidental deaths. Wearing safety belt lessens the risk of dying in a major vehicle accident.