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Racial Health Disparities by the Numbers

We Still Have a Long Way to Go on Racial Equality

SOURCE: AP/Paul Beaty

Patients wait in the emergency room at Stroger Hospital in Chicago, a safety net hospital that is a last resport for many who need care and are unable to get it any other way.

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Over 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and 24 years after the United States began remembering his legacy every January, there is still much work to be done to bring about equality in our country. Millions of Americans today struggle to find high quality affordable health care, but racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by the failings of our health care system. They are less likely to be insured or to have regular access to a doctor, have higher rates preventable chronic illnesses, receive lower quality care, and on average die sooner than their nonminority counterparts.

The health care bills under consideration in Congress would make important contributions toward addressing these health care disparities, but more needs to be done. It is critical to our nation’s health, and it is a moral imperative for our nation.

Racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to be insured than white Americans.

33 percent: Portion of the U.S. population who are people of color.
50 percent: Portion of the uninsured population who are people of color.

17 percent: Portion of white Americans under 65 without insurance in 2008.
21 percent: Portion of African Americans under 65 without insurance in 2008.
32 percent: Portion of Latinos under 65 without insurance in 2008.
31 percent: Portion of American Indians/Alaska Natives under 65 without insurance in 2008.

percentage of the population under 65 without insurance

$77 billion: The excess medical costs borne annually by African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans due to health disparities.

$413 billion: The total amount in health care and indirect costs that health care disparities cost the U.S. budget each year.

Racial and ethnic minorities have higher infant mortality rates and lower life expectancies than whites.

85 percent: Portion of white American pregnant women who received prenatal care in their first trimester in 2004.
76 percent: Portion of African-American pregnant women who received prenatal care in their first trimester in 2004.
77 percent: Portion of Latino pregnant women who received prenatal care in their first trimester in 2004.
70 percent: Portion of American Indian/Alaskan Native pregnant women who received prenatal care in their first trimester in 2004.

percentage of pregnant women who received prenatal care in the first trimester

6.86: National infant mortality rate, per 1,000 live births.
13.63: African-American infant mortality rate, per 1,000 live births.
8.06: American Indian/Native Alaskan infant mortality rate, per 1,000 live births.

infant mortality rate

76 years: Life expectancy for white males.
70 years: Life expectancy for African-American males.

81 years: Life expectancy for white females.
77 years: Life expectancy for African-American females.

life expectancy

880,000: Number of deaths between 1991 and 2000 that could have been avoided if African-American mortality rates had been equivalent to that of white Americans.

Racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to have choices in where they seek care, and are less likely to have access to a regular doctor.

20 percent: Portion of white Americans without a regular doctor.
25 percent: Portion of African Americans without a regular doctor.
50 percent or more: Portion of Latinos without a regular doctor.

15 percent: Portion of white Americans who report having little or no choice in where to seek health care.
22 percent: Portion of African Americans who report having little or no choice in where to seek health care.
28 percent: Portion of Latinos who report having little or no choice in where to seek health care.

10 percent: Portion of health professionals that are from racial and ethnic minority groups, even though these groups make up 25 percent of the U.S. population and there is evidence that race concordance—defined as shared racial or ethnic identities between clinicians and patients—is related to patient reports of satisfaction, participatory decision-making, timeliness of treatment, and trust in the health system

66 million: Number of patient-provider encounters that occur across language barriers each year.

Racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive preventive treatment or care than their nonminority counterparts, despite having higher rates of some diseases and health problems.

58 percent: Portion of white Americans older than 65 who received a pneumococcal vaccination in 2005.
40 percent: Portion of African Americans older than 65 who received a pneumococcal vaccination in 2005.
29 percent: Portion of Latinos older than 65 who received a pneumococcal vaccination in 2005.
37 percent: Portion of Asian Americans older than 65 who received a pneumococcal vaccination in 2005.

percentage of adults 65 or older who received pneumococcal vaccination

57 percent: Portion of white Americans who were tested for colon cancer between 2003 and 2005.
46 percent: Portion of African Americans who were tested for colon cancer between 2003 and 2005.
37 percent: Portion of Latinos who were tested for colon cancer between 2003 and 2005.
42 percent: Portion of Asian Americans who were tested for colon cancer between 2003 and 2005.
38 percent: Portion of American Indian and Alaskan Natives who were tested for colon cancer between 2003 and 2005.

percentage who have been tested for colon cancer

25 percent: How much higher the age-adjusted cancer death rate is among blacks than whites. Blacks do not receive the same combinations of surgical and chemotherapy treatments as whites with similar types of cancer and are less likely to have access to clinical trials.

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