CT equity report finds preventable health problems contributed to excess deaths of Black residents

A new health equity report finds that preventable health problems contributed to an excess of 14,000 deaths in the Black population in Connecticut between 2017 and 2022.

The non-profit organization DataHaven, which conducted the study, said it used approaches similar to those used nationally to calculate the excess deaths as the difference between mortality rates for Black and white populations.

DataHaven also reported that if deaths had been evenly experienced, the rates would be equal, but mortality for Black populations was higher. In comparison, the report notes that “If white people died at the same rate as Black people in Connecticut, in that same six-year window, an additional 226,000 white people statewide would have died.”

The new report, “Health Equity in Connecticut 2023,” includes information gathered from statewide and national mortality records, the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey of randomly-selected adults throughout Connecticut, census data, and other sources, it said.

The DataHaven report says that those deaths of Black residents were due in part to COVID-19, chronic kidney disease, and heart disease—many of which the reports say were preventable.

Additional findings from DataHaven’s 2023 report include:

● Statewide, low-income adults are five times as likely as high income adults to report feeling chronically depressed.

● Nearly twice as many young adults ages 18–34 report having asthma, compared to adults 65 and over.

● Between 15 and 20 percent of Black adults, low-income adults, and adults living in Hartford and New Haven have experienced some sort of discrimination in a healthcare setting recently.

Fetal mortality is more than twice as high—and infant mortality more than three times as high—for Black babies as for white babies in Connecticut.

● Fentanyl—a major influence in the rise in overdose deaths—was found in 85 percent of Connecticut’s fatal overdose victims in 2022.

● The share of adults who feel they have access to affordable fruits and vegetables where they live ranges from 90 percent in many wealthy suburbs to less than 50 percent in Hartford.

The report includes data on social drivers of health/health outcomes in the state, and an analysis of the impact of firearm deaths, according to DataHaven.

It states that while mortality related to firearms is lower in Connecticut than nationwide, some groups are disproportionately affected.

According to DataHaven’s analysis, for example, Black men and boys between ages 15 and 24 make up 37 percent of gun homicide victims in Connecticut, but make up 3 percent of the state population.

“Across issues ranging from food insecurity to discrimination, risks from asthma to depression, and poor birth outcomes to premature and elevated mortality, Black populations fare measurably worse than white populations in Connecticut. Low income, Latino, and urban populations also experience significant disadvantages compared to white populations in the state, at different magnitudes,” the report says.

Tiffany Donelsonr president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, the state’s largest independent health philanthropy and a funder of the report, said in a statement that “residents of color, in particular, face a wide range of barriers that lead to poorer health and well-being.”

“DataHaven’s health equity report is especially valuable in presenting data in a detailed way that makes it clear where all of us in our state need to do more to make sure everyone has the resources and structure to be as healthy as possible,” she said in the statement.

In addition, the report provides context to explain the roots of the inequities and “this is important reading for everyone involved in health and policy in Connecticut,” said Donelson.

The reports notes that the impact of racism and discrimination “will not be solved overnight or with any single policy,” but that access to “healthcare, housing, healthy foods, and recreational
opportunities, along with gun reform, can and should be public health priorities.”

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“This report offers a small glimpse into the ways historical legacies rooted in racism have negatively affected marginalized communities—especially Black communities—and how those legacies continue to shape well-being. While this is not a comprehensive look at all of the structural factors leading to poor health outcomes, we believe the information in this report can help policymakers develop long-term strategies that promote health equity,” the report says,

Dr. Megan Ranney, dean of the Yale School of Public Health and one of the reviewers of the report, said use of a health equity lens allows policymakers, organizations, and communities to make choices that make a difference for residents.

Kelly Davila, a senior research associate at DataHaven, said in the statement that the legacy of racism continues to drive social and health-related inequities in Connecticut.

“By looking at the data for our various communities, we can no longer hide behind the state’s overall well-being and consider our policies a success. We must take action to correct the deep disparities that underlie the outcomes we describe in this report,” she said.

Other recently-released publications by DataHaven, include its Community Wellbeing Index and Town Equity Reports for all the 169 towns in Connecticut and Council of Governments regions.

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