'Can't look at the data and not take action': Study finds alarming death toll among Black Americans

Akilah Davis Image
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Study finds alarming death toll among Black Americans
"You can't look at data like that and not take action"

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Black health outcomes are a concern Adwoa Baffoe-Bonnie lives with. The Duke University medical student is keeping a close watch on her health down to the food she eats.

"Heart disease in my family, hypertension specifically," she said. "I go to regular checkups every year so I'm very aware of what my lab levels are."

A new study is sounding the alarm on mortality rates among Black Americans. Data shows over the last 20 years an estimated 1.63 million more died compared to what would have happened if Black people experienced the same death rate as White Americans in the same period. An estimated 997,673 deaths occurred among men and 628,464 among women.

The study states the leading causes of death included heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and COVID-19 at the height of the pandemic.

"You can't look at data like that and not take action," said Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the Center for Black Health and Equity.

The Durham-based nonprofit facilitates public health programs and services for people of color. Jefferson said this data should serve as a call to action that should prompt more people to join local groups dedicated to change.

"You don't have communities that don't have access to health care. Public transportation to healthcare. They can't get the same access to doctors, and then expect those communities to have the same type of death and mortality rates as white folks or other populations that have easy access to all of those conditions. The system is working as designed," said Jefferson.

He recommends people like medical student Baffoe-Bonnie have more conversations around the issue. It's something she's doing as she prepares to enter an industry where there's a major healthcare disparity facing minorities.

"I'm looking even closer because if these rates are so disparate, we have to be intentional about how we're going to make that change. Going into my future practice, if I'm going to make a change I have to be intentional about it," she said.