Four Preventable Risk Factors Underscore Health Disparities9 years ago
Posted on Apr 05, 2010, 6 a.m.
In the United States, smoking, high blood pressure, elevated glucose, and overweight/obesity affect, to varying degrees, residents’ life expectancy and disease-specific deaths.
While life expectancy and overall health have increased steadily in the United States over recent years, health disparities -- differences in how often certain diseases occur and cause death in groups of people classified according to their ethnicity, geographical location, sex, or age – persist and profoundly impact the population’s longevity. Majid Ezzati, from Harvard School of Public Health (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues investigated the role of preventable risk factors on disparities in life expectancy and disease-specific deaths among the “Eight Americas,” population groups defined by race and by the location and socioeconomic characteristics of their county of residence. Extracting data on exposure to four preventable risk factors from US national health surveys, compiling information on deaths from different diseases in 2005 from the US National Center for Health Statistics, and estimating the degree to which each risk factor potentially increases the risk of death from each disease from published studies, the researchers employed modeling methods to estimate the effects of risk factor exposure on death rates and life expectancy. The team’s findings suggest that disparities in smoking, blood pressure, blood sugar, and adiposity among US racial and geographical subgroups explain a substantial proportion of the disparities in deaths from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancers among population subgroups. The disparities in risk factor exposure also explain some of the disparities in life expectancy. The researchers posit that reduced exposure to preventable risk factors, through the implementation of relevant policies and programs, should reduce life expectancy and mortality disparities in the US and yield health benefits at a national scale.
Danaei G, Rimm EB, Oza S, Kulkarni SC, Murray CJL, et al. 2010 The Promise of Prevention: The Effects of Four Preventable Risk Factors on National Life Expectancy and Life Expectancy Disparities by Race and County in the United States. PLoS Med 7(3): e1000248; doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000248.