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Utah Blacks Face Significant Health Disparities

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Utah's black residents have higher rates of smoking, uninsurance and infant mortality than other residents, according to a report by the state Department of Health's Center for Multicultural Health released on Thursday, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Blacks represent 1.5% of Utah's population, which is about 400,000 people. According to the report, blacks smoke and lack health insurance at twice the rate of the entire state population. In addition, nearly 50% of black women do not receive adequate medical care, and black infants have about twice the risk of death as infants of other races.

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Laurie Baksh, a state reproductive health epidemiologist, said much of the high rate of infant death is related to a similarly high rate of premature births among blacks. In general, half of premature births are because of maternal or fetal illnesses while the other half is unexplained, according to the Tribune.

Steve Alder, chief of the University of Utah's division of public health and director of its Office of Global Health, said the health disparities in part can be attributed poverty. He said, the report "highlights the need to think about how we can tailor our efforts to try and bring up different populations to have the standard of health we've come to expect in our society." Betty Sawyer, director of the faith-based health group Harambee African-American Tobacco and Health Network, said racism also is a factor.

State officials plan to target low-income and minority women with a program that promotes wellness before pregnancy. The health department received a $1 million federal grant to fund the program (May, Salt Lake Tribune, 1/16).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.