Originally created 02/21/99

DHEC report: Blacks at more risk



ORANGEBURG -- South Carolina's minorities have a higher risk for death than non-minorities in most categories of diseases, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control says.

This comes from South Carolina Minority Health Status Report, The (Orangeburg) Times and Democrat reported in Saturday's editions.

Some of the disparity in health status between racial groups may be caused by differences in economic resources between the groups. According to the report, 34 percent of South Carolina black families live in poverty, compared to 8 percent of South Carolina white families.

Living in poverty often means limited access to health care, compromised nutrition and poor housing conditions.

The report details status disparities in health problems such as infant mortality rates, low birth weights and other diseases plaguing South Carolinians.

"If we are successful in decreasing the number of low birth weights among children born to black women, we will give children a better chance of being healthy," said Gardenia Ruff, director of the Office of Minority Health. "When we look at a determinant of low birth weights, it is usually lack of prenatal care during the first three months of pregnancy."

The South Carolina black infant mortality rate went down faster than it has for the nation. However, in South Carolina, the rate of death among infants born to black women is more than twice the rate of death among infants born to white women.

According to the report, birth weight is the strongest determination of an infant's chances of survival and healthy development. In South Carolina, black infants are nearly twice as likely as white infants to be born with a low birth weight.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in South Carolina. The risk of death caused by heart disease among blacks is 1.4 times the same risk among whites.

The report cites the fact that blacks have a higher incidence of hypertension than whites as one of the reasons for the difference.

Also, whites often have the opportunity for early intervention because they tend to be diagnosed at earlier stages of heart disease, DHEC says.