Apr 18, 2024 - Health

Racial health disparities exist in every state, new report says

Death rate before age 75 from preventable causes
Data: The Commonwealth Fund via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Axios Visuals

Even states that made progress narrowing racial and ethnic health disparities have considerable gaps on access, outcomes and quality of care, a new Commonwealth Fund report finds.

The big picture: Black and Native Americans are much likelier to die early from preventable illnesses than their white and Asian counterparts.

  • "Health equity does not exist in any state in the U.S.," said David Radley, a senior scientist at the Commonwealth Fund and an author of the report.

What they found: Overall, the health system performs below average for Black and Hispanic people in most states, according to the analysis.

  • Six states — Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawai'i, New Hampshire and New York — had above-average health system performance for all racial groups, but the data still shows health disparities in those states.
  • Health performance was below average for Native Americans in all states reporting data.

The report analyzed federal data captured between 2020-2022 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Census Bureau.

Despite the findings, Hispanic Americans tend to have lower premature mortality rates than Black and white Americans.

  • This could be because the Hispanic population is younger, more diverse, and less likely to engage in risky behaviors like smoking, researchers noted.

Between the lines: Unequal access to primary care and to comprehensive health insurance help perpetuate racial health disparities, the report said.

The bottom line: The Affordable Care Act and other initiatives have narrowed the country's entrenched racial and ethnic health gaps, but there's still a long way to go.

  • Abortion bans and the rise of artificial intelligence, among other things, are complicating the work of reversing systemic inequities.
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