Although half of the country is focused on the incessant killing of unarmed Black men at the hands of police officers, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is showing that African-Americans, particularly males, have bigger fears in their life span.
The average African-American male lives five years less than the average white American male.
Health is also far from post-racial. While America has made progress on this front, including through the Affordable Care Act, many gaps persist between blacks and whites.
Issues in health and health care that lead to a shorter life span for black Americans start before birth. The average black baby enters the world under different circumstances than the average white baby, and the gap only grows between birth and death.
In 2012, about 13 percent of babies born to black mothers had low birth weights (less than 2,500 grams), compared with 7 percent of babies born to white mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The lag of health awareness at an early age also leads to cancer striking more fiercely, such as the case of ESPN great Stuart Scott, who recently succumbed to the disease at the young age of 49.
Cancer-related deaths also account for part of the life-expectancy gap between blacks and whites – accounting for 0.634 years’ worth of lost life expectancy for blacks. In terms of years lost before age 75, black Americans lose nearly 1,796.7 years per 100,000 members of the population due to cancer deaths, while white Americans lose 1,420 years. Although genetics may be somewhat responsible for such differences, socio-economic factors such as diet, lifestyle and a lack of preventive care are far greater contributors. Of the U.S.’ racial and ethnic groups, black Americans have the highest cancer-related death rates and the shortest survival for most cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
The most common cancers for black men in the U.S. are prostate, lung, and colon and rectal cancer; for women, they are breast, lung and colorectal cancer. The gaps in preventive care have narrowed in the last decade for procedures that lead to early cancer diagnosis, and more Americans overall undergo these procedures and tests. While in 2000, only 20 percent of white Americans and 18 percent of black Americans ages 50 to 75 had colonoscopies, by 2010, 57 percent of white Americans did and 52 percent of black Americans did. Black and white women have mammograms at about the same rate.
Even something as commonplace as breastfeeding and/or “freeing the nipple” plays a huge factor.
Along the parenting track, breast-feeding has lifelong health benefits for babies, including a reduced risk for hospitalization for lower-respiratory tract diseases in the first year and lower chances for asthma, childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome. For the mother, breast-feeding decreases her risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Despite these and other benefits, black babies are breast-fed at about half the rate as white babies.
Much of that difference can be attributed to less education about the benefits of breast-feeding and fewer options in the workplace for breast-feeding. Prenatal visits present ample opportunities to discuss breast-feeding, but black women are less likely to receive prenatal care. Younger mothers are also less likely to receive prenatal care. Lack of access – meaning a response of, “I couldn’t get an appointment earlier in my pregnancy” – was the most common reason for mothers not getting prenatal care, followed by “I didn’t know I was pregnant” and “I didn’t have enough money or insurance to pay for my visits,” according to a 2003 survey funded by the CDC.
Next time someone responds to the question of how long do black males live with police brutality statistics, be sure to tell them while Black Lives do indeed Matter, Homicides are only responsible for 0.5 years of lost life compared to the 2,126.7 years lost from cancer and HIV combined.
Photo: Dimitri Halkidis/WENN