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Community Health Data Base
An Information Service of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation

African-American Adults in SEPA Experience Life-Threatening Health Disparities,
Wednesday. November 15, 2006

Philadelphia—While the topic of health disparities continues to garner national attention, a local study reports that African Americans in Southeastern Pennsylvania have the highest mortality rates and are more likely to be in poor health than adults of other races and ethnicities.

A recent report published by the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation’s (PHMC) Community Health Data Base Project examining mortality rates for the years 1999 to 2002 revealed that African-American adults residing in the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) area die at a disproportionately higher rate compared to their racial and ethnic counterparts.

In particular, PHMC examined mortality rates, provided by the Bureau of Health Statistics and Research, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, from 1999 to 2002, and out of 100,000 adults ages 18 and up in SEPA:

·  African-American women have the highest mortality rate for female breast cancer (39.8) compared to the aggregate for SEPA (30.7), followed by White (29.3), Latina (20.7), and Asian (11.7) women.
·  African-American adults have the highest mortality rate for lung cancer (76.6) compared to the aggregate for SEPA (58.4), followed by White (55.9), Latino (30.1), and Asian (23.5) adults in SEPA.
·  The mortality rate for heart disease among African-American adults (221.8) far exceeds the rate for SEPA (176.9), as well as their racial and ethnic counterparts: White (169.9), Latino (138.6), and Asian (97.3) adults.
·  African-Americans have a mortality rate for stroke (81.3) that is much higher than White (57.2), Latino (55.9), and Asian (54.8) adults in SEPA and compared to the aggregate rate for SEPA (61.1).
·  The mortality rate for homicide is three times greater among African-American adults (32.9) than the cumulative rate for SEPA (9.6), followed by Latino (14.3), White (2.8), and Asian (2.3) adults in SEPA.
According to the PHMC report, disparities in mortality rates are usually related to a convergence of disparities in health conditions, access to care, and environmental and behavioral factors. Key findings PHMC’s 2004 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, a survey of 10,000 families across Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties, found that:

·  African-American (14.0%) and Latino (14.3%) adults are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than White (7.5%) and Asian (3.9%) adults.
·  Only 12% of African-Americans do not have health insurance coverage, compared to Latino adults (20.0%), Asian (17.4%), and White (5.2%) adults.
·  Nearly one-third of African-American (30.4%) and Latino (31.6%) adults is in fair or poor health, compared to White (16.4%) and Asian (12.8%) adults.

In addition to disparities in health conditions, African American adults are more likely to have trouble accessing healthy food where they live. In particular:
·  African-American (8.3%) and Latino (6.1%) adults are more likely than White (2.7%) and Asian (2.5%) adults to find it difficult or very difficult to locate fruits or vegetables in their neighborhood.
·  Two out of five African-American (39.7%) and Latino (40.1%) adults, compared Asian (30.2%) and White (27.2%) adults, have had to travel outside of their neighborhood to reach a supermarket.

PHMC is a non-profit, public health organization committed to improving the health of the community through outreach, education, research, planning, technical assistance, and direct services. The Household Health Survey is conducted by PHMC’s Community Health Data Base Project, which is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The William Penn Foundation, The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and a variety of participating agencies from the health, government, nonprofit, and academic sectors.
Results from PHMC’s 2006 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey will be available in February 2007. To be placed on the Household Health Survey e-mail list, contact Johanna Trowbridge at

For more information on the minority health disparities in Southeastern Pennsylvania, please contact Francine Axler, Senior Research Associate, at 215-985-2521 or Additional Survey findings are located online at