Racial disparities in death rates common in major US cities, study finds

Mortality rates have differed greatly for Black and white populations in 30 major U.S. cities over the past decade, according to a study published Jan. 20 in JAMA Network Open.

The study — led by Chicago-based researchers from the Sinai Urban Health Institute, Loyola University Chicago, Depaul University and the American Medical Association — is among the first to examine all-cause mortality data and racial inequity in the 30 largest cities in the U.S. 

Researchers calculated mortality rates for each city's Black, white and total population using data on more than 26 million deaths between 2009 and 2018. 

"Only 14 of the 30 largest cities saw improvements in overall mortality rates during this period, and racial inequities actually increased in more cities (six) than they decreased (two)," study author Maureen Benjamins, PhD, a senior research fellow at the Sinai Urban Health Institute, said in a news release. 

The remaining 22 cities saw no change in racial inequities over the 10-year period.

Nationally, the all-cause mortality rate for Black populations was 24 percent higher than white populations, which equated to more than 74,000 additional Black deaths a year.

On a city level, this disparity was largest in Chicago, where the death rate was 65 percent higher for Black populations, leading to 3,804 additional Black deaths each year.

"Inequities in mortality are not inevitable, and they vary from city to city. If health equity can be achieved in some cities, why not all?" study author Fernando De Maio, PhD, director of research and data at the AMA's Center for Health Equity, said in the new release. "Our results are an indication of the toll of structural racism in U.S. society, but they also give us hope that better, and more equitable, patterns of population health are possible."

To view the full study, click here.

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