CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report — United States, 2013

CDC works 24 hours a day, seven days a week protecting people in the United States from health threats in order to save lives, promote health, and reduce costs. Achieving health equity, eliminating health disparities, and improving health in the United States are overarching goals to improve and protect our nation’s health.

Over the past 50 years, the United States has made significant progress toward these important goals. Life expectancy increased from just under 70 years in 1960 to approximately 79 years in 2011 (1,2). People are living longer, healthier, and more productive lives. However, this upward trend is neither as rapid as it should be — we lag behind dozens of other nations (3) – nor is it uniformly experienced by people in the United States.

In fact, these two shortcomings of our health system are distinct but related. Our overall health status does not achieve our potential. An important part of this — even though preventable illness, injury, disability, and death affect all segments of society — is that life expectancy and other key health outcomes vary greatly by race, sex, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. In the United States, whites have a longer healthy life expectancy than blacks, and women live longer than men (4). There are also marked regional differences, with much lower life expectancy among both white and black Americans who live in the Southeast (4).

CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report — United States, 2013 is the second agency report examining some of the key factors that affect health and lead to health disparities in the United States. Four findings bring home the enormous personal tragedy of health disparities:

• Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Non-Hispanic black adults are at least 50% more likely to die of heart disease or stroke prematurely (i.e., before age 75 years) than their non-Hispanic white counterparts (5).

• The prevalence of adult diabetes is higher among Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks, and those of other or mixed races than among Asians and non-Hispanic whites. Prevalence is also higher among adults without college degrees and those with lower household incomes (6).

• The infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic blacks is more than double the rate for non-Hispanic whites. Rates also vary geographically, with higher rates in the South and Midwest than in other parts of the country (7). Foreword Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH Director, CDC

• Men are far more likely to commit suicide than women, regardless of age or race/ethnicity, with overall rates nearly four times those of women. For both men and women, suicide rates are highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic whites (8).

CDC and its partners work to identify and address the factors that lead to health disparities among racial, ethnic, geographic, socioeconomic, and other groups so that barriers to health equity can be removed. The first step in this process is to shine a bright light on the problem to be solved. Providing accurate, useful data on the leading causes of illness and death in the United States and across the world is a foundation of CDC’s mission and work.

Go to top