The gap in death rates between U.S. white and minority groups has been narrowing in recent years, but a new study suggests that trend halted between 2009 and 2012.
"After years of progress in reducing racial/ethnic mortality disparities, our study shows that progress among most racial/ethnic and age groups has stalled and/or reversed in the U.S. over the last decade," explained researcher Keith Gennuso of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in Madison.
For example, for black infants and children, the death rate was twice as high as for whites and it's rising, he said. His team reported the findings Tuesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The death rate for middle-age white Americans also increased, largely due to the ongoing opioid addiction crisis, Gennuso noted. However, the death rate in the same age group for black people and American Indians remained higher than that of white people, the findings showed.
"The setback is particularly worrisome because it disproportionately affects those with historically poorer health who continue to face societal barriers," Gennuso said in a journal news release.
What to do? According to the study authors, change will only come when policymakers use solutions that target root causes and the needs of specific age and racial/ethnic groups.
"It will be important for us to apply lessons learned from our years of progress if we hope to regain what was lost and fully realize the Healthy People 2020 goal to achieve health equity, eliminate disparities and improve the health of all groups," Gennuso said.
For more on U.S. life expectancy, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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