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      Socioeconomic Disparities in Health in the United States: What the Patterns Tell Us

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      American Journal of Public Health

      American Public Health Association

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          Abstract

          We aimed to describe socioeconomic disparities in the United States across multiple health indicators and socioeconomic groups. Using recent national data on 5 child (infant mortality, health status, activity limitation, healthy eating, sedentary adolescents) and 6 adult (life expectancy, health status, activity limitation, heart disease, diabetes, obesity) health indicators, we examined indicator rates across multiple income or education categories, overall and within racial/ethnic groups. Those with the lowest income and who were least educated were consistently least healthy, but for most indicators, even groups with intermediate income and education levels were less healthy than the wealthiest and most educated. Gradient patterns were seen often among non-Hispanic Blacks and Whites but less consistently among Hispanics. Health in the United States is often, though not invariably, patterned strongly along both socioeconomic and racial/ethnic lines, suggesting links between hierarchies of social advantage and health. Worse health among the most socially disadvantaged argues for policies prioritizing those groups, but pervasive gradient patterns also indicate a need to address a wider socioeconomic spectrum-which may help garner political support. Routine health reporting should examine socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparity patterns, jointly and separately.

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          Most cited references 39

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          The obesity epidemic in the United States--gender, age, socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and geographic characteristics: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis.

          This review of the obesity epidemic provides a comprehensive description of the current situation, time trends, and disparities across gender, age, socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic groups, and geographic regions in the United States based on national data. The authors searched studies published between 1990 and 2006. Adult overweight and obesity were defined by using body mass index (weight (kg)/height (m)(2)) cutpoints of 25 and 30, respectively; childhood "at risk for overweight" and overweight were defined as the 85th and 95th percentiles of body mass index. Average annual increase in and future projections for prevalence were estimated by using linear regression models. Among adults, obesity prevalence increased from 13% to 32% between the 1960s and 2004. Currently, 66% of adults are overweight or obese; 16% of children and adolescents are overweight and 34% are at risk of overweight. Minority and low-socioeconomic-status groups are disproportionately affected at all ages. Annual increases in prevalence ranged from 0.3 to 0.9 percentage points across groups. By 2015, 75% of adults will be overweight or obese, and 41% will be obese. In conclusion, obesity has increased at an alarming rate in the United States over the past three decades. The associations of obesity with gender, age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status are complex and dynamic. Related population-based programs and policies are needed.
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            The increasing disparity in mortality between socioeconomic groups in the United States, 1960 and 1986.

            There is an inverse relation between socioeconomic status and mortality. Over the past several decades death rates in the United States have declined, but it is unclear whether all socioeconomic groups have benefited equally. Using records from the 1986 National Mortality Followback Survey (n = 13,491) and the 1986 National Health Interview Survey (n = 30,725), we replicated the analysis by Kitagawa and Hauser of differential mortality in 1960. We calculated direct standardized mortality rates and indirect standardized mortality ratios for persons 25 to 64 years of age according to race, sex, income, and family status. The inverse relation between mortality and socioeconomic status persisted in 1986 and was stronger than in 1960. The disparity in mortality rates according to income and education increased for men and women, whites and blacks, and family members and unrelated persons. Over the 26-year period, the inequalities according to educational level increased for whites and blacks by over 20 percent in women and by over 100 percent in men. In whites, absolute death rates declined in persons of all educational levels, but the reduction was greater for men and women with more education than for those with less. Despite an overall decline in death rates in the United States since 1960, poor and poorly educated people still die at higher rates than those with higher incomes or better educations, and this disparity increased between 1960 and 1986.
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              Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Health The Added Effects of Racism and Discrimination

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                American Journal of Public Health
                Am J Public Health
                American Public Health Association
                0090-0036
                1541-0048
                April 2010
                April 2010
                : 100
                : S1
                : S186-S196
                Article
                10.2105/AJPH.2009.166082
                2837459
                20147693
                © 2010

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