Historical Perspectives on the Care of African-Americans with Cardiovascular Disease

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Advances in medicine and surgery over the last 100 years have resulted in improved treatments for all forms of disease. Unfortunately, African Americans have not benefited equally when compared with Whites. African Americans have had an overall death rate that is 1.6 times higher than that of the White population. When the age-adjusted death rates for the ten leading causes of death in the United States in 1950 and 1995 are compared, the mortality rates have declined. However, among African Americans the mortality rates for cancer, diabetes, suicide, cirrhosis of the liver, and homicide were actually higher in 1995 than in 1950. When heart disease, the leading cause of death, is considered, there have been important reductions in mortality for the entire population during the past 50 years. However, the racial gap between African Americans and Whites is actually wider today than it was in 1950. The African American/White ratio of age-adjusted mortality rates for heart disease was 1.26 in 1950 and 1.58 in 1995 [1].


This paper was presented at the symposium on Understanding Disparities in Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgical Outcomes in African Americans, San Diego, CA, Jan 30, 2003.



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