Blacks in US endured wave of excess deaths in past 20 years: Study
Black people in the US experienced an excess 1.6 million deaths compared with the White population during the past two decades, two new studies have shown, highlighting the massive health disparities and inequity in َAmerica.
In one study, researchers conclude that the gap in health outcomes translated into 80 million years of potential life lost — years of life that could have been preserved if the gap between Black and White mortality rates had been eliminated. The second report determined the price society pays for failing to achieve health equity and allowing Black people to die prematurely: $238 billion in 2018 alone.
“This is our collective challenge as a country because it hurts all of us deeply,” Marcella Nunez-Smith, associate dean for health equity research at Yale University and co-author of the study told the Washington Post.
“All of the potential. Which one of those people whose life was cut short was on the way to some scientific discovery that would transform all of our lives or create beautiful art and music? Who among them was going to be a spiritual or religious leader? Not to mention the economic impact.”
The reasons for the excess deaths and resulting economic toll are many, including mass incarceration, but the root is the same, according to the reports published Tuesday in the influential medical journal JAMA: the unequal nature of how American society is structured.
That includes access to quality schools, jobs with a living wage, housing in safe neighborhoods, health insurance and medical care — all of which affect health and well-being. For centuries, Black people were legally deprived of these benefits, and researchers said we have yet to fully ameliorate the effects.
“Just to illustrate the issue, one of the clearest examples of structural racism was in 1935 when the Social Security Act was passed,” said Thomas LaVeist, dean of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and lead author of the study on the economic implications of health disparities. “They intentionally left out domestic workers and farmworkers who were disproportionately Black. That hasn’t been fully unraveled.”