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Rural Counties With Majority Black Or Indigenous Populations Suffer The Highest Rates Of Premature Death In The US

Publication Date: December 5th, 2019
Publication Type(s): Peer-reviewed Journal Publications
Topic(s): , , , ,
Author(s): Henning-Smith C, Hernandez A, Hardeman R, Ramirez M, Kozhimannil KB

ABSTRACT

Despite well-documented health disparities by rurality and race/ethnicity, research investigating racial/ethnic health differences among US rural residents is limited. We used county-level data to measure and compare premature death rates in rural counties by each county’s majority racial/ethnic group. Premature death rates were significantly higher in rural counties with a majority of non-Hispanic black or American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) residents than in rural counties with a majority of non-Hispanic white residents. After we adjusted for community-level covariates, differences in premature death remained significant in counties with a majority of AI/AN residents but not those with a majority of non-Hispanic black residents. This study highlights the particular vulnerability of non-Hispanic black and AI/AN rural communities to high rates of premature mortality. Policies to improve rural health should focus on these racially diverse communities, addressing economic vitality and current and historical political context to mitigate health inequities and the harmful health effects of neglecting social determinants of health.

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