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To your health!

Melvin B. Miller
To your health!
“I guess we better start saving more for a longer retirement.” (Photo: Dan Drew)

Life in America has always been difficult for blacks. According to government data, in 1900 whites lived on average for 15 years longer than blacks. Since then the gap has been closing. In 1990 whites still lived seven years longer, but federal records indicate that the gap narrowed to 3.4 years in 2014. Blacks live an average expectancy of 75.6 years compared to 79 years for whites.

The closing of the life expectancy gap has not been constant. In 1982 blacks lived for 69.4 years but longevity dropped to 69.2 years in 1993 because of the effect of AIDS, homicides and the crack epidemic. Nonetheless, the trend was generally up after the 1970s with the expanded availability of Medicare and Medicaid. Advanced medical care became critically important when blacks began living long enough to become victims of cancer after the 1950s.

The encouraging information about increased black longevity should inspire people to note what changes induced the improvement. The decline in infant mortality has been significant. Since the 1990s black infant mortality has declined by 20 percent, twice the rate for whites. That result primarily is due to the fact that births to teenage mothers decreased by 64 percent. Such births have caused a high rate of infant mortality which adversely affected the longevity data.

Another factor contributing to closing the racial longevity gap is that the suicide rate for black men dropped during 1999 to 2014. The rate for whites did not. Also, the current opioid crisis has more adversely affected whites, and the rash of urban violence increases the homicide rate for blacks.

Several years ago the Banner launched “Be Healthy,” a magazine to inform community residents about medical issues that can be frightfully complex. With medical information from “Be Healthy” and the Affordable Care Act, black Bostonians now enjoy a better level of health than in prior years.

The Banner intends to keep readers informed through the continued quarterly publication of “Be Healthy” in addition to health notes on the website.