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Encouraging Surge In Life Expectancy Among Black Americans

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reports a notable increase in life expectancy for Black Americans in 2022, with a rise of 1.6 years. The overall improvement is attributed to factors such as declines in COVID-19 mortality, heart disease, unintentional injuries, cancer, and homicide. While signaling progress, the report emphasizes the need for continued efforts, as racial disparities persist. The white non-Hispanic advantage over the Black non-Hispanic population decreased, underlining the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. William Schaffner, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, highlights the importance of sustained vaccination efforts amid lingering health challenges.
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By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The latest findings on life expectancy in the United States from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) underscored a noteworthy upswing for the African American population in 2022. With the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, the NCHS has highlighted the positive strides in health outcomes, particularly for Black Americans.

The comprehensive report utilizes provisional vital statistics data for 2022, providing crucial insights into the nation’s health landscape. Notably, life expectancy at birth for the entire U.S. population increased, reaching 77.5 years in 2022—a significant rise of 1.1 years from the preceding year. The positive trend is reflected in both genders, with males experiencing a 1.3-year increase (74.8 years) and females seeing a rise of 0.9 years (80.2 years).

The report also highlighted the marked improvement in life expectancy for the Black non-Hispanic population. The data indicated a substantial increase of 1.6 years, elevating life expectancy from 71.2 in 2021 to 72.8 in 2022. Health officials said that represents a step towards narrowing historical disparities but also signals a promising shift in health outcomes for Black Americans.

The report attributed a significant portion (84.2%) of the overall increase in life expectancy to decreases in mortality due to COVID-19. Other contributors include reductions in mortality related to heart disease (3.6%), unintentional injuries (2.6%), cancer (2.2%), and homicide (1.5%). However, the gains could have been more pronounced if not for counterbalancing increases in mortality due to influenza and pneumonia (25.5%), perinatal conditions (21.5%), kidney disease (13.0%), nutritional deficiencies (12.6%), and congenital malformations (5.9%).

While the report paints an optimistic picture of health improvements, it emphasizes that the upswing in life expectancy doesn’t fully offset the 2.4-year loss observed between 2019 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Racial and ethnic disparities persist, with the white non-Hispanic advantage over the Black non-Hispanic population decreasing by 14.5% from 2021 (5.5 years) to 2022 (4.7).

“There appears to have been some recovery from COVID, but we still have a way to go,” William Schaffner, an infectious-disease physician at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told the Washington Post.

“COVID remains with us and continues to put people in the hospital, and have a substantial mortality rate associated with it, particularly among older people and people who are immunocompromised,” Schaffner said.

Schaffner added that the lingering effects of the pandemic and other health challenges provide a reminder that the United States needs to continue its comprehensive childhood vaccination program, which typically requires children to be immunized before attending school.

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“And now we have a slow erosion of that, with increasing vaccine skepticism and more and more parents withholding their children from comprehensive vaccination,” Schaffner said. “We don’t want to erode these very successful preventive health initiatives.”

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