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Racial Health Inequities in Connecticut Resulted in 14,000 Deaths

A report found that if Black people in the state had the mortality rates that white people do, 14,000 fewer Black residents would have died between 2017 to 2022 from heart disease, chronic kidney disease and COVID-19.

Health inequities between Black and white Connecticut residents may have contributed to 14,000 deaths over a recent six-year period, a new report suggests.

According to the report, from the non-profit DataHaven, Black people in Connecticut died at vastly higher rates of heart disease, chronic kidney disease and COVID-19 than white people from 2017 through 2022. Additionally, both Black and Latino residents were more likely to have asthma, to be obese and to be anxious or depressed.

If Black people in Connecticut had the mortality rates that white people do, the report concluded, 14,000 fewer Black residents would have died during that time period. Only about 10 percent of those deaths are estimated to have been attributable to COVID specifically.

"When I first arrived at that 14,000 number, I was very shocked, and I had to redo the math a few times to make sure I was looking at it right," said Kelly Davila, a researcher at DataHaven who authored the report. "I anticipated that number being high, but I didn't anticipate it being that high."

If white people had the mortality rate that Black people do, meanwhile, an additional 226,000 would have died from 2017-22, the report says.

Though Connecticut's mortality rates are generally lower than national averages, deep health inequities persist across the state, along lines of race, class and geography. For example, Connecticut residents with incomes under $30,000 a year were more than twice as likely to report not getting care they needed over the past year as those making $100,000 or more, according to DataHaven, while residents of Hartford and Bridgeport were more than three times as likely to report food insecurity as those in suburban and rural towns.

Data Haven's report, informed by surveys the organization has conducted as well as by state and federal data, pointed to particularly sharp racial disparities in birth outcomes: Fetal mortality is more than twice as high for Black babies than for white ones in Connecticut, while infant mortality is three times as high.

"Mortality is end of life, but even in the beginning of life we see big disparities," Davila said. "Whether it's physicians not listening to patients or not treating them the same way, racism is definitely a factor that's affecting birth outcomes from the very beginning of life."

The report also noted rising costs of health care, which make treatment more difficult for disadvantaged groups. Connecticut consistently ranks as one of the most expensive states for health care, with costs averaging 25 percent above the national average, the report says.

Connecticut's health disparities were often particularly stark during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Black and Latino people were far more likely to contract and die of the disease, likely due to higher frequencies of underlying conditions, as well as a higher likelihood of living in tight quarters and working "essential" jobs that required them to attend in person.

In almost all cases, health disparities across racial and class lines are not due to any sort of genetic predisposition but to environmental factors, such as pollution, lack of nutrition and anxiety. Davila notes that not everyone has the same access to the type of exercise and nutrition that can help prevent certain illnesses.

In early August, DataHaven released equity reports for all 169 Connecticut towns, noting disparities in income, housing, education, health and overall satisfaction. In surveys conducted over a multi-year period, more than 90 percent of adults in many of the state's wealthiest towns reported happiness with the place they live, as compared to fewer than 70 percent in some low-income cities.

Residents in poorer communities were also more likely to report underlying health conditions and less likely to report having health insurance.

(c)2023 The Middletown Press, Conn. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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