When 9-year-old Jeremy Brown is in pain, it feels like he is being stabbed, while the pain experienced by Deborah Oliver, 40, is like a hundred simultaneous charley horses. Brown, of Bridgeport, and Oliver, of New Haven, have sickle cell disease (SCD), a genetic blood disorder that causes excruciating pain, life-threatening complications and a shortened life expectancy. Almost one-half of sickle cell patients die in their 40s. The disease affects some 100,000 Americans, about one in 365 African Americans and one out of 16,300 Hispanics; and in lesser numbers, people with Middle Eastern, Indian, Caribbean and Mediterranean ancestries. An estimated 2,000 people in Connecticut have SCD.
Depending on your ZIP code, Connecticut is a wonderful place to live. A recent United Health Foundation report said Connecticut ranks sixth in the nation for women and children’s health. The state scored high because of a low teen birth rate, as well as a high percentage of publicly funded women’s health services needs being met. But the state faces a yawning disparity of health status among residents—and its segregated towns. That’s significant because research shows that if you want to calculate your life expectancy, check your ZIP code and your median household income.
Connecticut has seen significant reductions in deaths from breast and colon cancer in the last three decades, but the state exceeds the national mortality rate for uterine cancer and three other cancers, as well as for mental health and substance use disorders. An analysis of data compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, published in JAMA, also shows wide disparities between Connecticut counties in death rates from certain cancers and other illnesses. Windham County had the highest mortality rates for seven of 10 cancers identified in the study as having the highest disease burden or responsiveness to screening and treatment, including pancreatic, uterine and lung cancer. Tolland County, meanwhile, had the lowest death rates for five cancers, including breast cancer, while Fairfield County was lowest for four. Similarly, deaths from chronic respiratory diseases in Windham County were nearly double the rate in Fairfield County – 63.13 per 100,000, compared to 34.15.
Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to get flu vaccines, have a preventive health care visit, or receive follow-up care after being hospitalized for a mental health disorder, according to a first-of-its kind federal report that looks at health disparities among people on Medicare Advantage plans. “While these data do not tell us why differences exist, they show where we have problems and can help spur efforts to understand what can be done to reduce or eliminate these differences, ” said Dr. Cara James, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health, which released the report. The report looks at 27 clinical care measures and eight patient experiences to gauge differences in treatment among whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians or Pacific Islanders. It has some bright spots: Blacks and Hispanics reported slightly better communication with doctors than whites did. Hispanics had higher rates than non-Hispanic whites of colorectal screenings, blood sugar testing for diabetes, and treatment for osteoporosis (among women) after a fracture.
Black women in Connecticut remain more likely than white or Hispanic women to deliver preterm babies, despite efforts to reduce the disparity, newly released data show. In 2014, 12 percent of all births by black women in the state were preterm, meaning they occurred before 37 weeks gestation, according to data compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. That compares with 9 percent of all births by white women and 10 percent of all births by Hispanic women that were preterm during the same year. Nationally, the trend was similar with 13 percent of births by black women occurring preterm compared with 9 percent of white women’s births and 9 percent of Hispanic women’s births. In the vast majority of states, black women experience a higher rate of preterm births than whites or Hispanic women, according to the state-by-state comparison of the Kaiser data.