Life expectancy: How can we tackle asymmetric declines? Harvard Health Blog


Not long ago, during the pre-pandemic 2019 period, the average life expectancy at birth of non-Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic populations were 75, 79 and 82 years, respectively. The higher life expectancy of Hispanics compared to others in the United States may come as a surprise to some.

This phenomenon is known as “Hispanic paradoxIt was first mentioned in the 1980s, and its legitimacy has been under debate ever since. A host of explanations have been proposed, including hypotheses about a “healthy immigrant” (people who immigrate to the United States are healthier than those who reside in their own countries. Native) and the “salmon bias” (less healthy American immigrants are likely to return to their countries of origin). Other experts Note that Hispanic societies have lower rates of smoking and higher levels of social cohesion, which may certainly contribute to higher life expectancy. Ultimately, this difference remains poorly understood, and increases its complexity Research Note that Hispanic individuals born in the United States may have a lower life expectancy compared to their foreign-born counterparts.

right Now, Recent estimates of life expectancy From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a worrying change that highlights the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. Between 2019 and 2020, life expectancy decreased sharply among the black and Hispanic population compared to their white counterparts, by three years, two years and one year, respectively. In fact, the gap in life expectancy between the white and black populations widened from four to six years, the largest since 1998. The advantage in life expectancy of the Hispanic population over whites decreased from three to two years. In other words, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced life expectancy among all individuals in the United States, but this effect has been felt most by communities of color.

There are many reasons for the increased exposure to COVID-19

Several factors contributed to this disproportionate decrease in life expectancy. But these impressive numbers remind us of the vulnerability of blacks, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) in the United States, as a result of unequal access to health care and the resources needed to achieve rising economic mobility. Many BIPOC residents in the United States live on the brink of collapse. With less health or financial reserves, these societies have become increasingly vulnerable to sudden events, such as a financial meltdown in the early 2000s or a global pandemic.

Racism operates largely through structural barriers that benefit some groups and harm others. Instead of causing new disparities, the COVID-19 pandemic has simply exposed the enduring failures of our social policies and healthcare delivery to our BIPOC communities. Most recently, the CDC acknowledged this and made public Racism is a threat to public health That harm the health and well-being of the BIPOC population.

Long-standing systemic failures lead to poor overall health

Abnormal Heavy and constant exposure to stress during pregnancy and early childhood It leads to the continuous release of inflammatory and stress-related hormones such as cortisol, which leads to toxic levels of chronic stress. Racism causes chronic stress, which affects negatively Development and welfare of BIPOC children. Moreover, many BIPOC children have it Less general chance to thrive. They live in neighborhoods plagued by widespread poverty resulting from long-standing discriminatory policies such as redlining and housing segregation. These factors accumulate, eventually leading to elevated levels of cardiovascular disease, mental illness, and health risk behaviors. Known as WeatheringThis contributes to both a reduced life span and a healthy period (the period of life in which a person is healthy).

Moreover, BIPOC personnel in the United States continually encounter obstacles in accessing quality healthcare. Examples include high rates of non-insurance and non-insurance, and low health care literacy. Pervasive bias and discriminatory policies are deeply ingrained in our healthcare delivery infrastructure. Therefore, the findings of the CDC report should not be surprising: Residents chronically deprived of accessible preventive services are expected to perform poorly during the pandemic.

Moving forward: What changes could help?

We can all raise our voices to convince and support the efforts of government officials at every level, and healthcare leaders, to address the direct disparities related to the ongoing pandemic and the chronic shortcomings that make BIPOC communities increasingly vulnerable. Here are several actions that can get our system to move in the right direction.

Can ordinary citizens

  • Voting in all elections – especially local elections. Local elected officials, such as a city mayor, city director, city councilors and a county mayor, can affect the lives of citizens more personally than government or federal officials. Local media and news sites may contain information about policy views and track records to help you choose candidates.
  • Beware of fake news promoted on social media. Social media puts a wealth of information at our fingertips, but it also offers ways to spread misinformation that can significantly influence our decisions. Try to maintain a healthy level of suspicion. Check information with reliable sources. these Common sense tips It can help prevent you from falling victim to fake news.
  • Supporting local organizations. Nonprofits and community-based organizations play a major role in helping to address the COVID-19 disparities affecting BIPOC communities and fighting for testing and fairness in vaccines. If you are financially able, consider making a donation to local nonprofits, food banks, and community organizations so they can continue to help in times of need.

Can policy makers and government leaders

  • Unemployment insurance reform. Pumping federal money into restoring dilapidated unemployment insurance infrastructures and passing legislation mandating the provision of minimum standard benefits by all states.
  • Make universal health care happen. Ensuring the achievement of universal health insurance, whether through a general option, a single payer, or a combination of other alternatives. Americans deserve equal access to high-quality health care, and especially preventive care.
  • Abolition of historically racist and discriminatory policies. Eliminate discriminatory practices such as electoral fraud, demographic segregation, and pervasive poverty, leaving communities of color in poor conditions without a voice.

Editor’s Note: At the request of Dr. Perez, the terminology used to describe all races and / or ethnicities has been capitalized throughout this post, to reflect his view of identity and racial justice.


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