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1.  Improvements in Survival After Follicular Lymphoma by Race/Ethnicity and Socioeconomic Status: A Population-Based Study 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2009;27(18):3044-3051.
A recent report suggested improvements in survival after follicular lymphoma (FL), but not for all racial/ethnic groups. To better understand the reasons for these FL survival differences, we examined the joint influences of diagnostic period, race/ethnicity, and neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) on survival in a large population-based case series.
All patients (n = 15,937) diagnosed with FL between 1988 and 2005 in California were observed for vital status through November 2007. Overall and FL-specific survival were analyzed with Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional hazards regression. Neighborhood SES was assigned from United States Census data using residence at diagnosis.
Overall and FL-specific survival improved 22% and 37%, respectively, from 1988 to 1997 to 1998 to 2005, and were observed in all racial/ethnic groups. Asian/Pacific Islanders had better survival than non-Hispanic white, Hispanic, and black patients who had similar outcomes. Lower neighborhood SES was associated with worse survival in patients across all stages of disease (P for trend < .01). Patients with the lowest SES quintile had a 49% increased risk of death from all causes (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.49, 95% CI, 1.30 to 1.72) and 31% increased risk of death from FL (HR = 1.31; 95% CI, 1.06 to 1.60) than patients with the highest SES.
Evolving therapies have likely led to improvements in survival after FL. Although improvements have occurred within all racial/ethnic groups, lower neighborhood SES was significantly associated with substantially poorer survival.
PMCID: PMC2702236  PMID: 19451447
2.  “Racial and social class gradients in life expectancy in contemporary California” 
Social science & medicine (1982)  2010;70(9):1373-1380.
Life expectancy, or the estimated average age of death, is among the most basic measures of a population's health. However, monitoring differences in life expectancy among sociodemographically defined populations has been challenging, at least in the United States (US), because death certification does not include collection of markers of socioeconomic status (SES). In order to understand how SES and race/ethnicity independently and jointly affected overall health in a contemporary US population, we assigned a small area-based measure of SES to all 689,036 deaths occurring in California during a three-year period (1999-2001) overlapping the most recent US census. Residence at death was geocoded to the smallest census area available (block group) and assigned to a quintile of a multifactorial SES index. We constructed life tables using mortality rates calculated by age, sex, race/ethnicity and neighborhood SES quintile, and produced corresponding life expectancy estimates. We found a 19.6 (±0.6) year gap in life expectancy between the sociodemographic groups with the longest life expectancy (highest SES quintile of Asian females; 84.9 years) and the shortest (lowest SES quintile of African-American males; 65.3 years). A positive SES gradient in life expectancy was observed among whites and African-Americans but not Hispanics or Asians. Age-specific mortality disparities varied among groups. Race/ethnicity and neighborhood SES had substantial and independent influences on life expectancy, underscoring the importance of monitoring health outcomes simultaneously by these factors. African-American males living in the poorest 20% of California neighborhoods had life expectancy comparable to that reported for males living in developing countries. Neighborhood SES represents a readily available metric for ongoing surveillance of health disparities in the US.
PMCID: PMC2849870  PMID: 20171001
racial disparities; social class disparities; life expectancy; California; population-based; USA; socioeconomic status (SES)
3.  Socioeconomic status and prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates among the diverse population of California 
Cancer Causes & Control   2009;20(8):1431-1440.
The racial/ethnic disparities in prostate cancer rates are well documented, with the highest incidence and mortality rates observed among African-Americans followed by non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders. Whether socioeconomic status (SES) can account for these differences in risk has been investigated in previous studies, but with conflicting results. Furthermore, previous studies have focused primarily on the differences between African-Americans and non-Hispanic Whites, and little is known for Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders.
To further investigate the relationship between SES and prostate cancer among African-Americans, non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders, we conducted a large population-based cross-sectional study of 98,484 incident prostate cancer cases and 8,997 prostate cancer deaths from California.
Data were abstracted from the California Cancer Registry, a population-based surveillance, epidemiology, and end results (SEER) registry. Each prostate cancer case and death was assigned a multidimensional neighborhood-SES index using the 2000 US Census data. SES quintile-specific prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates and rate ratios were estimated using SEER*Stat for each race/ethnicity categorized into 10-year age groups.
For prostate cancer incidence, we observed higher levels of SES to be significantly associated with increased risk of disease [SES Q1 vs. Q5: relative risk (RR) = 1.28; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.25–1.30]. Among younger men (45–64 years), African-Americans had the highest incidence rates followed by non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders for all SES levels. Yet, among older men (75–84 years) Hispanics, following African-Americans, displayed the second highest incidence rates of prostate cancer. For prostate cancer deaths, higher levels of SES were associated with lower mortality rates of prostate cancer deaths (SES Q1 vs. Q5: RR = 0.88; 95% CI: 0.92–0.94). African-Americans had a twofold to fivefold increased risk of prostate cancer deaths in comparison to non-Hispanic Whites across all levels of SES.
Our findings suggest that SES alone cannot account for the greater burden of prostate cancer among African-American men. In addition, incidence and mortality rates of prostate cancer display different age and racial/ethnic patterns across gradients of SES.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10552-009-9369-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2746891  PMID: 19526319
Prostate cancer; Socioeconomic status; Disparities; Incidence rates; Mortality rates
4.  Geographic disparities in colorectal cancer survival 
Examining geographic variation in cancer patient survival can help identify important prognostic factors that are linked by geography and generate hypotheses about the underlying causes of survival disparities. In this study, we apply a recently developed spatial scan statistic method, designed for time-to-event data, to determine whether colorectal cancer (CRC) patient survival varies by place of residence after adjusting survival times for several prognostic factors.
Using data from a population-based, statewide cancer registry, we examined a cohort of 25,040 men and women from New Jersey who were newly diagnosed with local or regional stage colorectal cancer from 1996 through 2003 and followed to the end of 2006. Survival times were adjusted for significant prognostic factors (sex, age, stage at diagnosis, race/ethnicity and census tract socioeconomic deprivation) and evaluated using a spatial scan statistic to identify places where CRC survival was significantly longer or shorter than the statewide experience.
Age, sex and stage adjusted survival times revealed several areas in the northern part of the state where CRC survival was significantly different than expected. The shortest and longest survival areas had an adjusted 5-year survival rate of 73.1% (95% CI 71.5, 74.9) and 88.3% (95% CI 85.4, 91.3) respectively, compared with the state average of 80.0% (95% CI 79.4, 80.5). Analysis of survival times adjusted for age, sex and stage as well as race/ethnicity and area socioeconomic deprivation attenuated the risk of death from CRC in several areas, but survival disparities persisted.
The results suggest that in areas where additional adjustments for race/ethnicity and area socioeconomic deprivation changed the geographic survival patterns and reduced the risk of death from CRC, the adjustment factors may be contributing causes of the disparities. Further studies should focus on specific and modifiable individual and neighborhood factors in the high risk areas that may affect a person's chance of surviving cancer.
PMCID: PMC2724436  PMID: 19627576
5.  Disparities in liver cancer incidence by nativity, acculturation, and socioeconomic status in California Hispanics and Asians 
Asians and Hispanics have the highest incidence rates of liver cancer in the US, but little is known about how incidence patterns in these largely immigrant populations vary by nativity, acculturation, and socioeconomic status (SES). Such variations can identify high-priority subgroups for prevention and monitoring.
Incidence rates and rate ratios (IRRs) by nativity among 5,400 Hispanics and 5,809 Asians diagnosed with liver cancer in 1988–2004 were calculated in the California Cancer Registry. Neighborhood ethnic enclave status and SES were classified using 2000 US Census data for cases diagnosed in 1998–2002.
Foreign-born Hispanic males had significantly lower liver cancer incidence rates than US-born Hispanic males in 1988–2004 (e.g., IRR=0.54, 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.50–0.59), whereas foreign-born Hispanic females had significantly higher rates in 1988–1996 (IRR=1.42, 95% CI=1.18–1.71), but not 1997–2004. Foreign-born Asian males and females had up to 5-fold higher rates than the US-born. Among Hispanic females, incidence rates were elevated by 21% in higher-enclave versus lower-enclave neighborhoods, and by 24% in lower- versus higher-SES neighborhoods. Among Asian males, incidence rates were elevated by 23% in higher-enclave neighborhoods and by 21% in lower-SES neighborhoods. In both racial/ethnic populations, males and females in higher-enclave, lower-SES neighborhoods had higher incidence rates.
Nativity, residential enclave status, and neighborhood SES characterize Hispanics and Asians with significantly unequal incidence rates of liver cancer, implicating behavioral or environmental risk factors and revealing opportunities for prevention.
Liver cancer control efforts should especially target foreign-born Asians, US-born Hispanic men, and residents of lower-SES ethnic enclaves.
PMCID: PMC3005535  PMID: 20940276
6.  Uncovering disparities in survival after non-small-cell lung cancer among Asian/Pacific Islander ethnic populations in California 
Asians may have better survival after non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) than non-Asians. However, it is unknown whether survival varies among the heterogeneous U.S. Asian/Pacific Islander (API) populations. Therefore, this study aimed to quantify survival differences among APIs with NSCLC. Differences in overall and disease-specific survival were analyzed in the California Cancer Registry among 16,577 API patients diagnosed with incident NSCLC between 1988 and 2007. Adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Cox proportional hazards regression models with separate baseline hazards by disease stage. Despite better overall and disease-specific survival among APIs compared with non-Hispanic Whites, differences were evident across API populations. Among women, Japanese (overall survival HR=1.16, 95% CI=1.06–1.27) and APIs other than those in the six largest ethnic groups (“other APIs”; HR=1.19, 95% CI=1.07–1.33) had significantly poorer overall and disease-specific survival than Chinese. By contrast, South Asian women had significantly better survival than Chinese (HR=0.79, 95% CI=0.63–0.97). Among men, Japanese (HR=1.15, 95% CI=1.07–1.24), Vietnamese (HR=1.07, 95% CI=1.00–1.16), and other APIs (HR=1.18, 95% CI=1.08–1.28) had significantly poorer overall and disease-specific survival than Chinese. Other factors independently associated with poorer survival were lower neighborhood SES, involvement with a non-university-teaching hospital, unmarried status, older age, and earlier year of diagnosis. APIs have significant ethnic differences in NSCLC survival that may be related to disparate lifestyles, biology, and especially health care access or use. To reduce the nationwide burden of lung cancer mortality, it is critical to identify and ameliorate hidden survival disparities such as those among APIs.
PMCID: PMC2764550  PMID: 19622719
non-small-cell lung cancer; survival; Asian Americans; Pacific Islanders; ethnic groups
7.  Lymphoid malignancies in US Asians: incidence rate differences by birthplace and acculturation 
Malignancies of the lymphoid cells, including non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs), Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and multiple myeloma (MM), occur at much lower rates in Asians than other racial/ethnic groups in the United States (US). It remains unclear whether these deficits are explained by genetic or environmental factors. To better understand environmental contributions, we examined incidence patterns of lymphoid malignancies among populations characterized by ethnicity, birthplace, and residential neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) and ethnic enclave status.
We obtained data regarding all Asian patients diagnosed with lymphoid malignancies between 1988 and 2004 from the California Cancer Registry and neighborhood characteristics from US Census data.
While incidence rates of most lymphoid malignancies were lower among Asian than white populations, only follicular lymphoma (FL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), and nodular sclerosis (NS) HL rates were statistically significantly lower among foreign-born than US-born Asians, with incidence rate ratios ranging from 0.34 to 0.87. Rates of CLL/SLL and NS HL were also lower among Asian women living in ethnic enclaves or lower-SES neighborhoods than those living elsewhere. Conclusions: These observations support strong roles of environmental factors in the causation of FL, CLL/SLL, and NS HL.
Studying specific lymphoid malignancies in US Asians may provide valuable insight towards understanding their environmental causes.
PMCID: PMC3111874  PMID: 21493873
lymphoid malignancies; Asians; immigration; environmental causes
8.  Neighborhood socioeconomic status and fruit and vegetable intake among Whites, Blacks, and Mexican-Americans in the United States 
Socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in health status across the United States are large and persistent. Obesity rates are rising faster in Black and Hispanic populations than in Whites and foreshadow even greater disparities in chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease in years to come. Factors that influence dietary intake of fruits and vegetables in these populations are only partly understood.
We examined associations between fruit and vegetable intake and neighborhood socioeconomic status (NSES), analyzed whether NSES explains racial differences in intake, and explored the extent to which NSES has differential effects by race/ethnicity of United States (U.S.) adults.
Using geocoded residential addresses from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), we merged individual-level data with county and census-tract level U.S. Census data. We estimated three-level hierarchical models predicting fruit and vegetable intake with individual characteristics and an index of neighborhood SES as explanatory variables.
Neighborhood SES was positively associated with fruit and vegetable intake: a one standard deviation increase in the neighborhood SES index was associated with consumption of nearly 2 additional servings of fruit and vegetables per week. Neighborhood SES explained some of the Black-White disparity in fruit and vegetable intake and was differentially associated with fruit and vegetable intake among Whites, Blacks, and Mexican-Americans.
The positive association of neighborhood SES with fruit and vegetable intake is one important pathway through which the social environment of neighborhoods affects population health and nutrition for Whites, Blacks and Hispanics in the United States.
PMCID: PMC3829689  PMID: 18541581
Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status; Race/Ethnicity; Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
9.  The Geography of Recreational Open Space: Influence of Neighborhood Racial Composition and Neighborhood Poverty 
The geography of recreational open space might be inequitable in terms of minority neighborhood racial/ethnic composition and neighborhood poverty, perhaps due in part to residential segregation. This study evaluated the association between minority neighborhood racial/ethnic composition, neighborhood poverty, and recreational open space in Boston, Massachusetts (US). Across Boston census tracts, we computed percent non-Hispanic Black, percent Hispanic, and percent families in poverty as well as recreational open space density. We evaluated spatial autocorrelation in study variables and in the ordinary least squares (OLS) regression residuals via the Global Moran’s I. We then computed Spearman correlations between the census tract socio-demographic characteristics and recreational open space density, including correlations adjusted for spatial autocorrelation. After this, we computed OLS regressions or spatial regressions as appropriate. Significant positive spatial autocorrelation was found for neighborhood socio-demographic characteristics (all p value = 0.001). We found marginally significant positive spatial autocorrelation in recreational open space (Global Moran’s I = 0.082; p value = 0.053). However, we found no spatial autocorrelation in the OLS regression residuals, which indicated that spatial models were not appropriate. There was a negative correlation between census tract percent non-Hispanic Black and recreational open space density (rS = −0.22; conventional p value = 0.005; spatially adjusted p value = 0.019) as well as a negative correlation between predominantly non-Hispanic Black census tracts (>60 % non-Hispanic Black in a census tract) and recreational open space density (rS = −0.23; conventional p value = 0.003; spatially adjusted p value = 0.007). In bivariate and multivariate OLS models, percent non-Hispanic Black in a census tract and predominantly Black census tracts were associated with decreased density of recreational open space (p value < 0.001). Consistent with several previous studies in other geographic locales, we found that Black neighborhoods in Boston were less likely to have recreational open spaces, indicating the need for policy interventions promoting equitable access. Such interventions may contribute to reductions and disparities in obesity.
PMCID: PMC3732687  PMID: 23099625
Recreational open space; Neighborhood racial composition; Neighborhood poverty; Racial/socioeconomic segregation; Spatial demography; Boston, US
10.  Race, place and AIDS: The role of socioeconomic context on racial disparities in treatment and survival in San Francisco 
Social science & medicine (1982)  2009;69(1):121-128.
Prior evidence suggests that the health and longevity benefits of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for persons living with AIDS (PLWAs) have not been equally distributed across racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Notably, black PLWAs tend to fare worse than their counterparts. We examine the role of neighborhood socioeconomic context on racial/ethnic differences in AIDS treatment and survival in San Francisco. The study population encompassed 4211 San Francisco residents diagnosed with AIDS between 1996 and 2001. Vital status was reported through 2006. Census data were used to define neighborhood-level indicators of income, housing, demographics, employment and education. Cox proportional hazards models were employed in multivariate analyses of survival times. Compared to whites, blacks had a significant 1.4 greater mortality hazard ratio (HR), which decreased after accounting for ART initiation. PLWAs in the lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods had a significant HR of 1.4 relative to those in higher socioeconomic neighborhoods, independent of race/ethnicity. The neighborhood association decreased after accounting for ART initiation. Path analysis was used to explore causal pathways to ART initiation. Racial/ethnic differences in neighborhood residence accounted for 19-22% of the 1.6-1.8 black-white relative odds ratio (ROR) and 14-15% of the 1.3-1.4 Latino-white ROR for delayed or no treatment. Our findings illuminate the independent and synergistic contributions of race and place on treatment disparities and highlight the need for future studies and interventions to address treatment initiation as well as neighborhood effects on treatment differences.
PMCID: PMC2764314  PMID: 19443092
Neighborhood environment; Racial/ethnic disparity; AIDS; USA; Race; Socioeconomic status; Antiretroviral therapy
11.  How Do Social Factors Explain Outcomes in Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer Among Hispanics in California? Explaining the Hispanic Paradox 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2013;31(28):3572-3578.
Hispanics in the United States have lower age-adjusted mortality resulting from non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) compared with non-Hispanic whites (NHWs). The purpose of this study was to evaluate individual, clinical, and neighborhood factors in survival among Hispanics with NSCLC.
Patients and Methods
We performed a retrospective analysis of NHWs and Hispanics with NSCLC between 1998 and 2007 in the California Cancer Registry (follow-up to December 2009). Kaplan-Meier curves depict survival by nativity for Hispanics with NSCLC. Cox proportional hazards models estimated hazard of mortality by race with adjustment for individual (age, sex, marital status), clinical (histologic grade, surgery, irradiation, chemotherapy), and neighborhood factors (neighborhood socioeconomic status, ethnic enclave).
We included 14,280 Hispanic patients with NSCLC. Foreign-born Hispanics had 15% decreased risk of disease-specific mortality resulting from NSCLC compared with NHWs (hazard ratio [HR], 0.85; 95% CI, 0.83 to 0.88) after adjustment for individual, clinical, and neighborhood factors. After adjustment for individual factors, compared with US-born Hispanics, foreign-born Hispanics had 10% decreased risk of disease-specific mortality (HR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.87 to 0.96). Clinical and neighborhood factors slightly moderated the survival benefit for foreign-born patients. A modestly more pronounced survival advantage was seen for foreign-born Hispanics living in low socioeconomic and high Hispanic enclave neighborhoods as compared with US-born Hispanics (HR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.81 to 0.90).
Foreign-born Hispanics with NSCLC have a decreased risk of disease-specific mortality compared with NHWs and US-born Hispanics with NSCLC. Neighborhood factors slightly moderate this survival advantage. This survival advantage is slightly more pronounced in lower socioeconomic and higher Hispanic enclave neighborhoods.
PMCID: PMC3782149  PMID: 23960183
12.  The influence of nativity and neighborhoods on breast cancer stage at diagnosis and survival among California Hispanic women 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:603.
In the US, foreign-born Hispanics tend to live in socioeconomic conditions typically associated with later stage of breast cancer diagnosis, yet they have lower breast cancer mortality rates than their US-born counterparts. We evaluated the impact of nativity (US- versus foreign-born), neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) and Hispanic enclave (neighborhoods with high proportions of Hispanics or Hispanic immigrants) on breast cancer stage at diagnosis and survival among Hispanics.
We studied 37,695 Hispanic women diagnosed from 1988 to 2005 with invasive breast cancer from the California Cancer Registry. Nativity was based on registry data or, if missing, imputed from case Social Security number. Neighborhood variables were developed from Census data. Stage at diagnosis was analyzed with logistic regression, and survival, based on vital status determined through 2007, was analyzed with Cox proportional hazards regression.
Compared to US-born Hispanics, foreign-born Hispanics were more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage of breast cancer (adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 1.14, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.09-1.20), but they had a somewhat lower risk of breast cancer specific death (adjusted hazard ratio (HR) = 0.94, 95% CI: 0.90-0.99). Living in low SES and high enclave neighborhoods was associated with advanced stage of diagnosis, while living in a lower SES neighborhood, but not Hispanic enclave, was associated with worse survival.
Identifying the modifiable factors that facilitate this survival advantage in Hispanic immigrants could help to inform specific interventions to improve survival in this growing population.
PMCID: PMC2988754  PMID: 21050464
13.  Cancer Disparities in the Context of Medicaid Insurance: A Comparison of Survival for Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Hodgkin's Lymphoma by Medicaid Enrollment 
The Oncologist  2011;16(8):1082-1091.
Using Medicaid enrollment as a proxy for poverty, potential disparities in survival after a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia or Hodgkin's lymphoma were assessed in a nonelderly population. Poverty did not affect survival for acute myeloid leukemia patients but did appear to be associated with survival for Hodgkin's lymphoma patients.
Because poverty is difficult to measure, its association with outcomes for serious illnesses such as hematologic cancers remains largely uncharacterized. Using Medicaid enrollment as a proxy for poverty, we aimed to assess potential disparities in survival after a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) in a nonelderly population.
We used records from the New York (NY) and California (CA) state cancer registries linked to Medicaid enrollment records for these states to identify Medicaid enrolled and nonenrolled patients aged 21–64 years with incident diagnoses of AML or HL in 2002–2006. We compared overall survival for the two groups using Kaplan–Meier curves and Cox proportional hazards analyses adjusted for sociodemographic and clinical factors.
For HL, the adjusted risk for death for Medicaid enrolled compared with nonenrolled patients was 1.98 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.47–2.68) in NY and 1.89 (95% CI, 1.43–2.49) in CA. In contrast, for AML, Medicaid enrollment had no effect on survival (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.84–1.19 in NY and hazard ratio, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.89–1.16 in CA). These results persisted despite adjusting for race/ethnicity and other factors.
Poverty does not affect survival for AML patients but does appear to be associated with survival for HL patients, who, in contrast to AML patients, require complex outpatient treatment. Challenges for the poor in adhering to treatment regimens for HL could explain this disparity and merit further study.
PMCID: PMC3228153  PMID: 21873583
Health care disparities; Medicaid; Socioeconomic factors; Neoplasms; Hodgkin's disease; Acute myeloid leukemia
14.  The Fall and Rise of US Inequities in Premature Mortality: 1960–2002 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e46.
Debates exist as to whether, as overall population health improves, the absolute and relative magnitude of income- and race/ethnicity-related health disparities necessarily increase—or derease. We accordingly decided to test the hypothesis that health inequities widen—or shrink—in a context of declining mortality rates, by examining annual US mortality data over a 42 year period.
Methods and Findings
Using US county mortality data from 1960–2002 and county median family income data from the 1960–2000 decennial censuses, we analyzed the rates of premature mortality (deaths among persons under age 65) and infant death (deaths among persons under age 1) by quintiles of county median family income weighted by county population size. Between 1960 and 2002, as US premature mortality and infant death rates declined in all county income quintiles, socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequities in premature mortality and infant death (both relative and absolute) shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for US populations of color; thereafter, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences barely changed in magnitude. Had all persons experienced the same yearly age-specific premature mortality rates as the white population living in the highest income quintile, between 1960 and 2002, 14% of the white premature deaths and 30% of the premature deaths among populations of color would not have occurred.
The observed trends refute arguments that health inequities inevitably widen—or shrink—as population health improves. Instead, the magnitude of health inequalities can fall or rise; it is our job to understand why.
Nancy Krieger and colleagues found evidence of decreasing, and then increasing or stagnating, socioeconomic and racial inequities in US premature mortality and infant death from 1960 to 2002.
Editors' Summary
One of the biggest aims of public health advocates and governments is to improve the health of the population. Improving health increases people's quality of life and helps the population be more economically productive. But within populations are often persistent differences (usually called “disparities” or “inequities”) in the health of different subgroups—between women and men, different income groups, and people of different races/ethnicities, for example. Researchers study these differences so that policy makers and the broader public can be informed about what to do to intervene. For example, if we know that the health of certain subgroups of the population—such as the poor—is staying the same or even worsening as the overall health of the population is improving, policy makers could design programs and devote resources to specifically target the poor.
To study health disparities, researchers use both relative and absolute measures. Relative inequities refer to ratios, while absolute inequities refer to differences. For example, if one group's average income level increases from $1,000 to $10,000 and another group's from $2,000 to $20,000, the relative inequality between the groups stays the same (i.e., the ratio of incomes between the two groups is still 2) but the absolute difference between the two groups has increased from $1,000 to $10,000.
Examining the US population, Nancy Krieger and colleagues looked at trends over time in both relative and absolute differences in mortality between people in different income groups and between whites and people of color.
Why Was This Study Done?
There has been a lot of debate about whether disparities have been widening or narrowing as overall population health improves. Some research has found that both total health and health disparities are getting better with time. Other research has shown that overall health gains mask worsening disparities—such that the rich get healthier while the poor get sicker.
Having access to more data over a longer time frame meant that Krieger and colleagues could provide a more complete picture of this sometimes contradictory story. It also meant they could test their hypothesis about whether, as population health improves, health inequities necessarily widen or shrink within the time period between the 1960s through the 1990s during which certain events and policies likely would have had an impact on the mortality trends in that country.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to investigate health inequities, the authors chose to look at two common measures of population health: rates of premature mortality (dying before the age of 65 years) and rates of infant mortality (death before the age of 1).
To determine mortality rates, the authors used death statistics data from different counties, which are routinely collected by state and national governments. To be able to rank mortality rates for different income groups, they used data on the median family incomes of people living within those counties (meaning half the families had income above, and half had incomes below, the median value). They calculated mortality rates for the total population and for whites versus people of color. They used data from 1960 through 2002. They compared rates for 1966–1980 with two other time periods: 1960–1965 and 1981–2002. They also examined trends in the annual mortality rates and in the annual relative and absolute disparites in these rates by county income level.
Over the whole period 1960–2002, the authors found that premature mortality (death before the age of 65) and infant mortality (death before the age of 1) decreased for all income groups. But they also found that disparities between income groups and between whites and people of color were not the same over this time period. In fact, the economic disparities narrowed then widened. First, they shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for Americans of color. After 1980, however, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences did not change. The authors conclude that if all people in the US population experienced the same health gains as the most advantaged did during these 42 years (i.e., as the whites in the highest income groups), 14% of the premature deaths among whites and 30% of the premature deaths among people of color would have been prevented.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings provide an overview of the trends in inequities in premature and infant mortality over a long period of time. Different explanations for these trends can now be tested. The authors discuss several potential reasons for these trends, including generally rising incomes across America and changes related to specific diseases, such as the advent of HIV/AIDS, changes in smoking habits, and better management of cancer and cardiovascular disease. But they find that these do not explain the fall then rise of inequities. Instead, the authors suggest that explanations lie in the social programs of the 1960s and the subsequent roll-back of some of these programmes in the 1980s. The US “War on Poverty,” civil rights legislation, and the establishment of Medicare occurred in the mid 1960s, which were intended to reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequalities and improve access to health care. In the 1980s there was a general cutting back of welfare state provisions in America, which included cuts to public health and antipoverty programs, tax relief for the wealthy, and worsening inequity in the access to and quality of health care. Together, these wider events could explain the fall then rise trends in mortality disparities.
The authors say their findings are important to inform and help monitor the progress of various policies and programmes, including those such as the Healthy People 2010 initiative in America, which aims to increase the quality and years of healthy life and decrease health disparities by the end of this decade.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at 0050046.
Healthy People 2010 was created by the US Department of Health and Human Services along with scientists inside and outside of government and includes a comprehensive set of disease prevention and health promotion objectives for the US to achieve by 2010, with two overarching goals: to increase quality and years of healthy life and to eliminate health disparities
Johan Mackenbach and colleagues provide an overview of mortality inequalities in six Western European countries—Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England/Wales, and Italy—and conclude that eliminating mortality inequalities requires that more cardiovascular deaths among lower socioeconomic groups be prevented, as well as more attention be paid to rising death rates of lung cancer, breast cancer, respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disease, and injuries among women and men in the lower income groups.
The WHO Health for All program promotes health equity
A primer on absolute versus relative differences is provided by the American College of Physicians
PMCID: PMC2253609  PMID: 18303941
15.  US Birth Weight/Gestational Age-Specific Neonatal Mortality: 1995–1997 Rates for Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks 
Pediatrics  2003;111(1):e61-e66.
In recent years, gains in neonatal survival have been most evident among very low birth weight, preterm, and low birth weight (LBW) infants. Most of the improvement in neonatal survival since the early 1980s seems to be the consequence of decreasing birth weight-specific mortality rates, which occurred during a period of increasing preterm and LBW rates. Although the decline in neonatal mortality has been widely publicized in the United States, research suggests that clinicians may still underestimate the chances of survival of an infant who is born too early or too small and may overestimate the eventuality of serious disability. So that clinicians may have current and needed ethnic- and race-specific estimates of the “chances” of early survival for newborn infants, we examined birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality rates for the 3 largest ethnic/racial groups in the United States: non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic blacks. Marked racial variation in birth weight and gestational age-specific mortality has long been recognized, and growing concerns have been raised about ongoing and increasing racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes. Our purpose for this investigation was to provide an up-to-date national reference for birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality rates for use by clinicians in care decision making and discussions with parents.
The National Center for Health Statistics linked live birth-infant death cohort files for 1995–1997 were used for this study. Singleton live births to US resident mothers with a reported maternal ethnicity/race of non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, or Hispanic (n = 10 610 715) were selected for analysis. Birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality rates were calculated using 250 g/2-week intervals for each ethnic/racial group.
The overall neonatal mortality rates for whites, Hispanics, and blacks were 3.24, 3.45, and 8.16 neonatal deaths per 1000 live births, and the proportion of births <28 weeks was 0.35%, 0.45%, and 1.39%, respectively. Newborns who weighed <1500 g comprised <2.5% of all births in each racial/ethnic group but accounted for >50% of neonatal deaths. For whites, Hispanics, and blacks, >50% of newborns 24 to 25 weeks of gestational age survived. For most combinations of birth weights <3500 g and gestational ages of <37 weeks, the neonatal mortality rate was lowest among blacks, compared with whites or Hispanics. At these same gestational age/birth weight combinations, Hispanics have slightly lower mortality rates than whites. For combinations of birth weights >3500 g and gestational ages of 37 to 41 weeks, Hispanics had the lowest neonatal mortality rate. In these birth weight/gestational age combinations, where approximately two thirds of births occur, blacks had the highest neonatal mortality rate.
Compared with earlier reports, these data suggest that a substantial improvement in birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality has occurred in the United States. Regardless of ethnicity/race, the risk of a neonatal death does not exceed 50% (the suggested definition for the limit of viability), except for birth weights below 500 g and gestational ages <24 weeks. Notwithstanding, ethnic/racial variations in neonatal mortality rates continue to persist, both in overall rates and within birth weight/gestational age categories. Blacks continue to have higher proportions for preterm and LBW births, compared with either whites or Hispanics. At the same time, blacks experience lower risks of neonatal mortality for preterm and LBW infants, while having higher risks of mortality among term, postterm, normal birth weight, and macrosomic births.
PMCID: PMC1382183  PMID: 12509596
VLBW, very low birth weight; LBW, low birth weight; BG-NMR, birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality rate; NCHS, National Center for Health Statistics; LMP, last normal menstrual period
16.  Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in mortality among women diagnosed with cervical cancer in New York City, 1995–2006 
Cancer causes & control : CCC  2010;21(10):1645-1655.
Though cervical cancer rates have declined due to Pap screening, racial and socioeconomic disparities in cervical cancer incidence and mortality persist. This study assesses the relative impact of race/ethnicity and neighborhood poverty on cervical cancer incidence and mortality in New York City (NYC).
Invasive cervical cancer cases in NYC from 1995 to 2006 were identified along with demographic and socioeconomic measures. Odds ratios (OR) of late stage diagnosis were estimated using logistic regression. Hazard ratios (HR) of death were calculated using Cox proportional hazards regression.
From 1995 to 2006 cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates decreased in NYC, though black and Hispanic women had higher incidence and mortality rates than white women. Puerto Ricans (OR = 1.55, 95% CI = 1.20–2.01) and blacks (OR = 1.34, 95% CI = 1.15–1.57) were more likely to be diagnosed with late stage disease than whites.
In multivariate analysis, blacks had similar mortality risk (HR 1.07, 95% CI = 0.95–1.20) to whites while Puerto Ricans had increased risk (HR = 1.31, 95% CI = 1.10–1.55), and non-Puerto Rican Hispanics (HR = 0.54, 95% CI = 0.45–0.63) and Asian/PIs (HR = 0.64, 95% CI = 0.52–0.78) had reduced risk. Women living in high poverty neighborhoods had higher mortality than women in higher income neighborhoods (HR = 1.32, 95% CI = 1.16–1.52).
Black and Puerto Rican women in NYC are at greatest risk of dying from cervical cancer. Race/ethnicity is predictive of late stage diagnosis, while both race/ethnicity and neighborhood poverty are important predictors of cervical cancer mortality.
PMCID: PMC4119171  PMID: 20521091
Cervical cancer; Race/ethnicity; Poverty; New York City; Survival analysis
17.  Neighborhood Context and Substance Use Disorders: A Comparative Analysis of Racial and Ethnic Groups in the United States 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2012;125(Suppl 1):S35-S43.
There is evidence that ethnic/racial minorities are conferred differential risk for substance use problems based on where they live. Despite a burgeoning of research focusing on the role of neighborhood characteristics on health, limited findings are available on substance use. Our study uses nationally representative data (N= 13, 837) to examine: (1) What neighborhood characteristics are associated with risk of substance use disorders?; (2) Do the associations between neighborhood characteristics and substance use disorders remain after adjusting for individual-level factors?; and (3) Do neighborhood characteristics associated with substance use disorders differ by race/ethnicity after adjusting for individual-level factors?
Data were drawn from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Studies (CPES-Geocode file) with 836 Census tracts. Analyses included African Americans, Asians, Caribbean Blacks, Latinos, and non-Latino whites. Separate logistic regression models were fitted for any past-year substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder, and drug use disorder.
Living in more affluent and residentially unstable census tracts was associated with decreased risk of past-year substance use disorder, even after adjusting for individual-level factors. However, when we investigated the interaction of race/ethnicity and census latent factors with past-year substance use disorders, we found different associations for the different racial/ethnic groups. We also found different associations between neighborhood affluence, residential instability and any past-year substance use and alcohol disorders by nativity.
Characteristics of the environment might represent differential risk for substance disorders depending on a person’s ethnicity/race and nativity status.
PMCID: PMC3488110  PMID: 22699095
neighborhood context; substance use disorders; alcohol; drugs; racial/ethnic minorities; nativity
18.  Measuring the neighborhood environment: associations with young girls' energy intake and expenditure in a cross-sectional study 
Neighborhood environments affect children's health outcomes. Observational methods used to assess neighborhoods can be categorized as indirect, intermediate, or direct. Direct methods, involving in-person audits of the neighborhoods conducted by trained observers, are recognized as an accurate representation of current neighborhood conditions. The authors investigated the associations of various neighborhood characteristics with young girls' diet and physical activity.
This study is based on a subset of participants in the Cohort Study of Young Girls' Nutrition, Environment and Transitions (CYGNET). In-person street audits were conducted within 215 girls' residential neighborhoods using a modified St. Louis Audit Tool. From the street audit data, exploratory factor analysis revealed five neighborhood scales: "mixed residential and commercial," "food and retail," "recreation," "walkability," and "physical disorder." A Neighborhood Deprivation Index was also derived from census data. The authors investigated if the five neighborhood scales and the Neighborhood Deprivation Index were associated with quartiles of total energy intake and expenditure (metabolic equivalent (MET) hours/week) at baseline, and whether any of these associations were modified by race/ethnicity.
After adjustment for demographic characteristics, there was an inverse association between prevalence of "food and retail" destinations and total energy intake (for a one quartile increase, OR = 0.84, 95% CI 0.74, 0.96). Positive associations were also observed between the "recreation" and "walkability" scales with physical activity among Hispanic/Latina girls (for a one quartile increase in MET, OR = 1.94, 95% CI 1.31, 2.88 for recreation; OR = 1.71, 95% CI 1.11, 2.63 for walkability). Among African-American girls, there was an inverse association between "physical disorder" and physical activity (OR = 0.31, 95% CI 0.12, 0.80).
These results suggest that neighborhood food and retail availability may be inversely associated with young girls' energy intakes in contrast to other studies' findings that focused on adults. There is considerable variation in neighborhoods' influences on young girls' physical activity behaviors, particularly for young girls of different racial/ethnic backgrounds.
PMCID: PMC2893449  PMID: 20515487
19.  A Population-Based Observational Study of First-Course Treatment and Survival for Adolescent and Young Adult Females with Breast Cancer 
Young age at breast cancer diagnosis is associated with poor survival. However, little is known about factors associated with first-course treatment receipt or survival among adolescent and young adult (AYA) females aged 15–39 years.
Data regarding 19,906 eligible AYA breast cancers diagnosed in California during 1992–2009 were obtained from the population-based California Cancer Registry. Multivariable logistic regression was used to evaluate clinical and sociodemographic differences in treatment receipt. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression was used to examine differences in survival by initial treatment, and by patient and tumor characteristics.
Black and Hispanic AYAs diagnosed with in situ or stages I–III breast cancer were more likely than White AYAs to receive breast-conserving surgery (BCS) without radiation; Asian and Hispanic AYAs were more likely than Whites to receive mastectomy. Women in lower socioeconomic status (SES) neighborhoods were more likely to omit radiation after BCS, more likely to receive mastectomy, and less likely to receive chemotherapy, compared to those in higher SES neighborhoods. Among patients with invasive disease, survival improved an average of 5% per year during 1992–2009. AYAs who received BCS with radiation experienced better survival than other surgery/radiation options. Black AYAs had poorer survival than Whites. AYAs who resided in higher SES neighborhoods had better survival.
Treatment receipt among AYAs with breast cancer varied by race/ethnicity and neighborhood SES. Poor survival for Black AYAs and AYAs living in low SES neighborhoods in models adjusted for treatment receipt suggests that factors other than treatment may also be important to disease outcome.
PMCID: PMC3779013  PMID: 24066271
breast cancer; treatment; survival; race/ethnicity; socioeconomic status
20.  Race disparities in childhood asthma: does where you live matter? 
OBJECTIVE: This study investigates whether racial/ethnic disparities in childhood asthma prevalence can be explained by differences in family and neighborhood socioeconomic position (SEP). METHODS: Data were from the 2001 Rhode Island Health Interview Survey (RI HIS), a statewide representative sample of 2,600 Rhode Island households, and the 2000 U.S. Census. A series of weighted multivariate models were fitted using generalized estimating equations (GEE) for the logistic case to analyze the independent and joint effects of race/ethnicity and SEP on doctor-diagnosed asthma among 1,769 white, black and Hispanic children <18 years old. RESULTS: Compared with white children, black children were at increased odds for asthma and this effect persisted when measures of family and neighborhood SEP were included in multivariate models (AOR: 2.49; 95% Cl: 1.30-4.77). Black children living in poverty neighborhoods had substantially higher odds of asthma than Hispanic and white children in poverty areas and children in moderate- and high-income neighborhoods (AOR: 3.20: 95% Cl: 1.62-6.29). CONCLUSION: The high prevalence of asthma among black children in poor neighborhoods is consistent with previous research on higher-than-average prevalence of childhood asthma in poor urban minority communities. Changing neighborhood social structures that contribute to racial disparities in asthma prevalence remains a challenge.
PMCID: PMC2595033  PMID: 16708510
21.  Neighborhood Effects on Youth Substance Use in a Southwestern City 
This study examines neighborhood influences on alcohol, cigarette and marijuana use among a predominantly Latino middle school sample. Drawing on theories of immigrant adaptation and segmented assimilation, we test whether neighborhood immigrant, ethnic, and socioeconomic composition, violent crime, residential instability, and family structure have differential effects on substance use among youth from different ethnic and acculturation backgrounds. Data are drawn from self-reports from 3,721 7th grade students attending 35 Phoenix, Arizona middle schools. Analysis was restricted to the two largest ethnic groups, Latino students of Mexican heritage and non-Hispanic Whites. After adjusting for individual-level characteristics and school- level random effects, only one neighborhood effect was found for the sample overall, an undesirable impact of neighborhood residential instability on recent cigarette use. Sub-group analyses by individual ethnicity and acculturation showed more patterned neighborhood effects. Living in neighborhoods with high proportions of recent immigrants was protective against alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use for Latino students at different acculturation levels, while living in predominantly Mexican heritage neighborhoods (mostly non-immigrants) was a risk factor for alcohol and marijuana use for less acculturated Latinos. There were scattered effects of neighborhood poverty and crime, which predicted more cigarette and alcohol use, respectively, but only among more acculturated Latinos. Inconsistent effects confined to bilingual and more acculturated Latinos were found for the neighborhood's proportion of single mother families and its residential instability. No neighborhood effects emerged for non-Hispanic White students. Results suggested that disadvantaged neighborhoods increase substance use among some ethnic minority youth, but immigrant enclaves appear to provide countervailing protections.
PMCID: PMC3040571  PMID: 21339890
neighborhood effects; substance use; adolescents; Mexican Americans; acculturation
22.  The Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Heat Risk–Related Land Cover in Relation to Residential Segregation 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2013;121(7):811-817.
Objective: We examined the distribution of heat risk–related land cover (HRRLC) characteristics across racial/ethnic groups and degrees of residential segregation.
Methods: Block group–level tree canopy and impervious surface estimates were derived from the 2001 National Land Cover Dataset for densely populated urban areas of the United States and Puerto Rico, and linked to demographic characteristics from the 2000 Census. Racial/ethnic groups in a given block group were considered to live in HRRLC if at least half their population experienced the absence of tree canopy and at least half of the ground was covered by impervious surface (roofs, driveways, sidewalks, roads). Residential segregation was characterized for metropolitan areas in the United States and Puerto Rico using the multigroup dissimilarity index.
Results: After adjustment for ecoregion and precipitation, holding segregation level constant, non-Hispanic blacks were 52% more likely (95% CI: 37%, 69%), non-Hispanic Asians 32% more likely (95% CI: 18%, 47%), and Hispanics 21% more likely (95% CI: 8%, 35%) to live in HRRLC conditions compared with non-Hispanic whites. Within each racial/ethnic group, HRRLC conditions increased with increasing degrees of metropolitan area-level segregation. Further adjustment for home ownership and poverty did not substantially alter these results, but adjustment for population density and metropolitan area population attenuated the segregation effects, suggesting a mediating or confounding role.
Conclusions: Land cover was associated with segregation within each racial/ethnic group, which may be explained partly by the concentration of racial/ethnic minorities into densely populated neighborhoods within larger, more segregated cities. In anticipation of greater frequency and duration of extreme heat events, climate change adaptation strategies, such as planting trees in urban areas, should explicitly incorporate an environmental justice framework that addresses racial/ethnic disparities in HRRLC.
PMCID: PMC3701995  PMID: 23694846
heat risk; impervious surface; racial segregation; tree cover; urban
23.  Neighborhood Context and Social Disparities in Cumulative Biological Risk Factors 
Psychosomatic medicine  2011;73(7):572-579.
This study examines the role of neighborhood context in the accumulation of biological risk factors and racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities.
Data come from face-to-face interviews and blood collection on a probability sample of adults (n=549) in the 2002 Chicago Community Adult Health Study. Following the approach of prior studies, we constructed an index of cumulative biological risk (CBR) by counting how many of eight biomarkers exceeded clinically defined criteria for “high risk”: systolic and diastolic blood pressure, resting heart rate, hemoglobin A1c, C-reactive protein, waist size, and total and HDL cholesterol. Data are presented as incidence rate ratios (IRR) based on generalized linear models with a Poisson link function and population-average estimates with robust standard errors.
Non-Hispanic blacks (n=200), Hispanics (n=149), and people with low (n=134) and moderate (n=275) education had significantly higher numbers of biological risks than their respective reference groups (IRR=1.48, 1.59, 1.62, and 1.48, respectively, with p-values <0.01). Black-white (p<0.001) and Hispanic-white (p<0.003) disparities in CBR remained significant after adjusting for individual-level socioeconomic position and behavioral factors, while individual-level controls substantially diminished the low/high (p<0.069) and moderate/high (p<0.042) educational differences. Estimating “within-neighborhood” disparities to adjust for neighborhood context fully explained the black-white gap in CBR (p<0.542) and reduced the Hispanic-white gap to borderline significance (p<0.053). Neighborhood affluence predicted lower levels of CBR (IRR=0.82, p<0.027), but neighborhood disadvantage was not significantly associated with CBR (IRR=1.00, p<0.948).
Neighborhood environments appear to play a pivotal role in the accumulation of biological risk and disparities therein.
PMCID: PMC3216672  PMID: 21862824
social environment; health disparities; cumulative biological risk; allostatic load; risk factor
24.  Analysing Recent Socioeconomic Trends in Coronary Heart Disease Mortality in England, 2000–2007: A Population Modelling Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001237.
A modeling study conducted by Madhavi Bajekal and colleagues estimates the extent to which specific risk factors and changes in uptake of treatment contributed to the declines in coronary heart disease mortality in England between 2000 and 2007, across and within socioeconomic groups.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality in England fell by approximately 6% every year between 2000 and 2007. However, rates fell differentially between social groups with inequalities actually widening. We sought to describe the extent to which this reduction in CHD mortality was attributable to changes in either levels of risk factors or treatment uptake, both across and within socioeconomic groups.
Methods and Findings
A widely used and replicated epidemiological model was used to synthesise estimates stratified by age, gender, and area deprivation quintiles for the English population aged 25 and older between 2000 and 2007. Mortality rates fell, with approximately 38,000 fewer CHD deaths in 2007. The model explained about 86% (95% uncertainty interval: 65%–107%) of this mortality fall. Decreases in major cardiovascular risk factors contributed approximately 34% (21%–47%) to the overall decline in CHD mortality: ranging from about 44% (31%–61%) in the most deprived to 29% (16%–42%) in the most affluent quintile. The biggest contribution came from a substantial fall in systolic blood pressure in the population not on hypertension medication (29%; 18%–40%); more so in deprived (37%) than in affluent (25%) areas. Other risk factor contributions were relatively modest across all social groups: total cholesterol (6%), smoking (3%), and physical activity (2%). Furthermore, these benefits were partly negated by mortality increases attributable to rises in body mass index and diabetes (−9%; −17% to −3%), particularly in more deprived quintiles. Treatments accounted for approximately 52% (40%–70%) of the mortality decline, equitably distributed across all social groups. Lipid reduction (14%), chronic angina treatment (13%), and secondary prevention (11%) made the largest medical contributions.
The model suggests that approximately half the recent CHD mortality fall in England was attributable to improved treatment uptake. This benefit occurred evenly across all social groups. However, opposing trends in major risk factors meant that their net contribution amounted to just over a third of the CHD deaths averted; these also varied substantially by socioeconomic group. Powerful and equitable evidence-based population-wide policy interventions exist; these should now be urgently implemented to effectively tackle persistent inequalities.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Coronary heart disease is a chronic medical condition in which the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle become narrowed or even blocked by fatty deposits on the inner linings of the blood vessels—a process known as arthrosclerosis; this restricts blood flow to the heart, and if the blood vessels completely occlude, it may cause a heart attack. Lifestyle behaviors, such as unhealthy diets high in saturated fat, smoking, and physical inactivity, are the main risk factors for coronary heart disease, so efforts to reduce this condition are directed towards these factors. Global rates of coronary heart disease are increasing and the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, it will be the biggest cause of death worldwide. However, in high-income countries, such as England, deaths due to coronary heart disease have actually fallen substantially over the past few decades with an accelerated reduction in annual death rates since 2000.
Why Was This Study Done?
Socioeconomic factors play an important role in chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, with mortality rates almost twice as high in deprived than affluent areas. However, the potential effect of population-wide interventions on reducing inequalities in deaths from coronary heart disease remains unclear. So in this study, the researchers investigated the role of behavioral (changing lifestyle) and medical (treatments) management of coronary heart disease that contributed to the decrease in deaths in England for the period 2000–2007, within and between socioeconomic groups.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a well-known, tried and tested epidemiological model (IMPACT) but adapted it to include socioeconomic inequalities to analyze the total population of England aged 25 and older in 2000 and in 2007. The researchers included all the major risk factors for coronary heart disease plus 45 current medical and surgical treatments in their model. They used the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2007 as a proxy indicator of socioeconomic circumstances of residents in neighborhoods. Using the postal code of residence, the researchers matched deaths from, and patients treated for, coronary heart disease to the corresponding deprivation category (quintile). Changes in risk factor levels in each quintile were also calculated using the Health Survey for England. Using their model, the researchers calculated the total number of deaths prevented or postponed for each deprivation quintile by measuring the difference between observed deaths in 2007 and expected deaths based on 2000 data, if age, sex, and deprivation quintile death rates had remained the same.
The researchers found that between 2000 and 2007, death rates from coronary heart disease fell from 229 to 147 deaths per 100,000—a decrease of 36%. Both death rates and the number of deaths were lowest in the most affluent quintile and the pace of fall was also faster, decreasing by 6.7% per year compared to just 4.9% in the most deprived quintile. Furthermore, the researchers found that overall, about half of the decrease in death rates was attributable to improvements in uptake of medical and surgical treatments. The contribution of medical treatments to the deaths averted was very similar across all quintiles, ranging from 50% in the most affluent quintile to 53% in the most deprived. Risk factor changes accounted for approximately a third fewer deaths in 2007 than occurred in 2000, but were responsible for a smaller proportion of deaths prevented in the most affluent quintile compared with the most deprived (approximately 29% versus 44%, respectively). However, the benefits of improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, and physical activity were partly negated by rises in body mass index and diabetes, particularly in more deprived quintiles.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that approximately half the recent substantial fall in deaths from coronary heart disease in England was attributable to improved treatment uptake across all social groups; this is consistent with equitable service delivery across the UK's National Health Service. However, opposing trends in major risk factors, which varied substantially by socioeconomic group, meant that their net contribution accounted for just a third of deaths averted. Other countries have implemented effective, evidence-based interventions to tackle lifestyle risk factors; the most powerful measures involve legislation, regulation, taxation, or subsidies, all of which tend to be equitable. Such measures should be urgently implemented in England to effectively tackle persistent inequalities in deaths due to coronary heart disease.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization has information about the global statistics of coronary heart disease
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute provides a patient-friendly description of coronary heart disease
The National Heart Forum is the leading UK organization facilitating the prevention of coronary heart disease and other chronic diseases
The British Heart Foundation supports research and promotes preventative activity
Heart of Mersey is the UK's largest regional organization promoting the prevention of coronary heart disease and other chronic diseases
More information about the social determinants of health is available from WHO
PMCID: PMC3373639  PMID: 22719232
25.  The Association between Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status and Clinical Outcomes among Patients 1 Year after Hospitalization for Cardiovascular Disease 
Journal of community health  2013;38(4):690-697.
Residing in lower socioeconomic status neighborhoods is associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Few studies have examined this association for cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes in a treated population in New York City (NYC). The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between neighborhood level poverty and one-year clinical outcomes (rehospitalization and/or death) among hospitalized patients with CVD. Data on rehospitalization and/or death at one-year were collected from consecutive patients admitted at a university medical center in NYC from November 2009 to September 2010. NYC residents totaled 2,198. U.S. Census 2000 zip code data was used to quantify neighborhood SES into quintiles of poverty (Q1=lowest poverty to Q5=highest poverty). Univariate analyses were used to determine associations between neighborhood poverty and baseline characteristics and comorbidities. A logistic regression analysis was used to calculate odds ratios for the association between quintiles of poverty and rehospitalization/death at one year. Fifty-five percent of participants experienced adverse outcomes. Participants in Q5 (9%) were more likely to be female (odds ratio [OR]=0.49,95% confidence interval [CI] 0.33–0.73), younger (OR=0.50,95% CI 0.34–0.74), of minority race/ethnicity (OR=18.24,95% CI 11.12=29.23), and have no health insurance (OR=4.79,95% CI 2.92–7.50). Living in Q5 was significantly associated with increased comorbidities, including diabetes mellitus and hypertension, but was not a significant predictor of rehospitalization/death at one year. Among patients hospitalized with CVD, higher poverty neighborhood residence was significantly associated with a greater prevalence of comorbidities, but not of rehospitalization and/or death. Affordable, accessible resources targeted at reducing the risk of developing CVD and these comorbidities should be available in these communities.
PMCID: PMC3706565  PMID: 23468321
cardiovascular disease; neighborhood; socioeconomic; prevention

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