University of Minnesota Study Finds High Premature Death Rates in Rural Black Counties

A new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health has found that rural counties with the highest premature death rates are those counties with large numbers of African Americans or indigenous populations.

The premature death rate is defined as years of potential life lost before the age of 75 per 100,000 people. Researchers used data from the 2017 County Health Rankings, which included information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources to determine the premature death rate and the racial and ethnic majority of rural counties.

The results showed rural counties with a majority of non-Hispanic Black residents had up to double the rates of premature death compared with rural counties with a majority of non-Hispanic White residents. The authors stated that socioeconomic factors, such as low household income and high unemployment, are strongly associated with higher premature death rates in counties that are largely non-Hispanic Black.

“There are significant racial differences in who has equitable access to good health in rural counties,” said Carrie Henning-Smith, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Minnesota School of Health and the lead author of the study. “To improve health for all rural residents, we need to address socioeconomic opportunities — especially for rural counties with a majority of non-Hispanic Black residents. We also need to address the historical trauma and discriminatory policies harming those rural residents who bear the brunt of health inequities.”

The full study, “Rural Counties With Majority Black Or Indigenous Populations Suffer The Highest Rates Of Premature Death In The US,” was published in the journal Health Affairs. It may be accessed here.

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