Decade-Long Report Card; Grades Residents Health

Article excerpt

Although fewer people are dying of heart disease, diabetes and stroke in St. Louis, death rates still vary greatly by neighborhood and between blacks and whites, according to new data released this week.

The report from the St. Louis Regional Health Commission highlights 14 health measures at the ZIP code level for St. Louis and St. Louis County from 2000 to 2010. Each week in December the Post-Dispatch health section will feature different aspects of the report, including heart disease, cancer, womens and childrens issues and sexual health.

While heart disease death rates in the area fell 29 percent from 2000 to 2010, it is still the leading cause of death locally and nationwide, accounting for about one-quarter of all deaths. About one-third of St. Louis residents have high blood pressure, and more than one-third have high cholesterol, risk factors for heart disease. Hospitalizations for heart disease are concentrated in north St. Louis, North County and parts of South County including Mehlville and Sunset Hills.

The chances of dying from heart disease are much higher for black men compared to other demographic groups. White women have the lowest death rates from heart disease. Even where improvements in health occur, racial groups did not improve equally. Stroke deaths in the city were down 37 percent for whites but 30 percent for African-Americans. The disparities are directly tied to poverty, said Pamela Walker, director of the city health department.

Not all black people have worse health outcomes than white people. Poor black people do. Uneducated black people do. …

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