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Health Disparities

What affects your health? Many things

Having insurance is important to people’s health, but other factors also have a significant impact.

Dr Harry Heiman

Dr. Harry Heiman

They include education, economic stability, physical environment and access to healthy food, notes Dr. Harry Heiman of Morehouse School of Medicine in a new report, written with Samantha Artiga with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A broad approach in addressing these “social determinants of health” will help improve health outcomes and “achieve health equity,” the authors say.

“Health behaviors, such as smoking and diet and exercise, are the most important determinants of premature death,’’ Heiman and Artiga write. “Moreover, there is growing recognition that a broad range of social, economic, and environmental factors shape individuals’ opportunities and barriers to engage in healthy behaviors.”

Here is a link to their issue brief.


Where you’re born can shorten your life

Children born just a few miles apart in Atlanta can have life expectancies that vary by more than 10 years, an analysis shows.

A child born in the 30305 ZIP Code in the affluent Buckhead district can be expected to live to age 84, according to a map recently created by Virginia Commonwealth University researchers.

But across I-75 in northwest Atlanta, a child in the 30318 ZIP Code would have an average life expectancy of 72 years.

Such dramatic differences are not unique to Atlanta, says Steve Woolf, director of VCU’s Center on Society and Health, which has also produced maps on New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and Richmond.

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While the Atlanta map is by ZIP Code, the map in Richmond uses census tract information, and shows an even more dramatic split in life expectancy — 20 years.

“We view [the maps] as a conversation starter, to help dramatize the differences in health in urban areas,” Woolf says.  More attention should be paid to conditions that affect socioeconomic well-being, he adds.  full story

Gaps in the breastfeeding trend (video)

More American mothers are breastfeeding their babies, the CDC recently reported.

Yet the percentage of African-American women breastfeeding, while rising, lags behind that of other racial and ethnic groups.

And Georgia and the Southeast have among the poorest breastfeeding rates, say Emory University researchers.

In this video, Emory experts Maeve Howett and Laura Gaydos talk about why breastfeeding is important for the health of both the child and the mother.

They also discuss the reasons why the rates for  black women are lower, and the need for workplace support and lactation consults that help women with breastfeeding.

Here’s a link to the video, courtesy of Emory.

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HIV higher among gay black men

A study involving Atlanta and five other U.S. cities shows that young black men who are gay or bisexual have greatly elevated HIV infection rates.

Researchers found that the overall rate of new HIV infections among black men having sex with men was 2.3 percent per year, nearly 50 percent higher than the rate for white men who are gay or bisexual.

The results, released last week at the International Conference on AIDS, also found that black gay and bisexual men 30 years old and younger acquired HIV infection at a rate of 5.9 percent per year, three times the rate among U.S. white gay or bisexual men of the same age bracket.

Emory University recruited nearly 300 black men for the study.

Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes AIDS. Georgia has among the highest HIV infection rates in the country.

Another Emory study of gay and bisexual men living in Atlanta reported the HIV interim incidence of 6.4 percent among Atlanta black gay and bisexual men.

In this GHN video interview, Paula Frew, an Emory assistant professor of medicine, discusses the findings of both studies, the possible reasons for these health disparities, and the interventions that can help reduce the HIV transmission rates.

The video is courtesy of Emory University.

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How do we increase access to dental care?

More than a decade ago, the first U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on oral health outlined a “silent epidemic” of dental and oral diseases in the nation.

Dental problems affected large numbers of children and adults, and were also linked to major health conditions, said the landmark report, released in 2000. Dr. David Satcher, who was surgeon general at the time and produced the report, said poor Americans and children were especially vulnerable, and that members of racial and ethnic groups had a disproportionate level of oral health problems.

Satcher, reflecting on that data 12 years later, says progress has been made in improving access to dental care, including in Georgia.

Satcher added Tuesday that the oral health report led to increased funding for dental schools and the creation of oral health research centers.

But he said, “We still have a long way to go in this country’’ on access to dental care.

Satcher spoke to an Atlanta audience of dental professionals and health officials at a conference sponsored by Morehouse School of Medicine. Speakers outlined the extent of the dental care problem and possible solutions, both for the nation and for Georgia. full story

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