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Epidemiology Resource Center Home > Surveillance and Investigation > Surveillance and Investigation Division > Newsletters > Indiana Epidemiology Archived Newsletters > Epi_Newsletter_February_2007-Evaluating Evaluating the State of Black Health in Indiana

Indiana Epidemiology Newsletter
February 2007

Antoniette M. Holt, MPH
Minority Health Epidemiologist

February is Black History Month. This long celebrated event reflects on the contributions made by Blacks to society as we know it today. From the brush you use every day (Lydia O. Newman), to the stoplight that you fuss at daily (Garret A. Morgan), there are many things that can be credited to the imagination, ingenuity, and process of a great people. Unfortunately, even with today’s technology and health advancements, health disparities still exist, and Blacks suffer illnesses and death rates at one to two times more than their White counterparts. 

This article addresses health disparities and how those disparities impact Blacks in Indiana. The 2005 U.S. Census Bureau’s data show that 8.6 percent of Indiana’s total population (or 522,377 people) are Black.  Blacks are the largest racial minority in Indiana to date. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines health disparities as gaps in the quality of health and health care across racial and ethnic groups.  The effects of these disparities are reflected in disease incidence, health outcomes, and health care access. Reasons contributing to health disparities include lack of health coverage, socioeconmic factors, linguistic barriers, cultural beliefs and differences, lack of providers, lack of education, discrimination, etc.

In Indiana, health disparities are everpresent within data collected. The leading causes of death for Blacks in Indiana in 2004 (the most recent data available) were:

Cause

Rank

African American/Black

Total

 

4,279

Diseases of heart

1

1,067

Malignant neoplasms

2

945

Cerebrovascular diseases

3

251

Diabetes mellitus

4

191

Assault (homicide)

5

175

Accidents

6

172

Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis

7

139

Chronic lower respiratory diseases

8

117

Septicemia

9

102

Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period

10

88

Alzheimer’s disease

11

75

Essential (primary) hypertension & hypertensive renal disease

12

71

Influenza and pneumonia

13

51

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease

14

48

Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis

15

44


2004 Indiana Mortality Report, leading causes of death

Although these numbers may seem small, the age-adjusted death rates depict a larger disparity gap. For diabetes in Indiana, the 2004 total age-adjusted death rate was 26.3 per 100,000 population. The age-adjusted death rate for Blacks was 49.7 per 100,000 population. 

Other diseases that have higher age-adjusted death rates for Blacks than for other races or ethnicities in Indiana include:  heart disease, cancer, stroke, homicide, HIV/AIDS, and certain conditions during the perinatal period.  In 2004, the infant mortality rate for Blacks was 17.1 per 1,000 live births compared to the rate for Whites, which was 6.9 per 1,000 live births. The state average was 8.1 per 1,000 live births. This example illustrates how some numbers for Blacks were more than double the state average.

Health disparities are also causing years of potential life to be lost.  Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) is a measurement of premature mortality. When looking at specific state mortality rates, YPLL can be most helpful for planning and evaluating local public health interventions.  For example, when looking at heart disease in Indiana, for 2004, Blacks had 10,984 years of potential life lost.

The numbers continue to show the same outcomes across different diseases. Through interventions such as the annual Black and Minority Health Fair at Indiana Black Expo or the INShape Indiana initiative from the Indiana State Department of Health and its partners, as well as other national, state, and local entities, programs and venues are being created or continue to grow to help stop this emergent rate of health disparities.

Much more must be done to reach the Healthy People 2010 goal of eliminating health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.

To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”