Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Heart Disease Disparity

Illustration of a cross section of peopleHeart disease remains a frequent killer. Of every four deaths in the United States, one is from heart disease. And blacks die of heart disease at a much higher rate than whites.

Although heart disease death rates fell steeply from 1968 to 2015, decreasing by 68 percent, the benefits were experienced by whites more than blacks, resulting in increased disparities.

Rollins School of Public Health researchers Miriam Van Dyke, a doctoral student in epidemiology, and Michael Kramer, associate professor of epidemiology, worked on a team that analyzed data from

the National Vital Statistics System. The team found that heart disease death rates for blacks and whites were similar at the start of the study period but began to diverge in the late 1970s, when rates for blacks plateaued while rates for whites continued to decrease. The largest increases in disparities occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

Although not as large, disparities remain today: heart disease death rates are 21 percent higher among blacks than whites. The researchers urge the use not only of evidence-based strategies and standard treatment protocols but also culturally relevant tools to promote heart-healthy living.

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