More than half of Native American children in Rhode Island live in poverty. The infant mortality rate for blacks is twice that of whites in Rhode Island.
Those are just a few highlights from new data released by the state health department about the health of Rhode Island’s minorities. Clearly, there are some big disparities between the health status of whites and almost every other minority. Rhode Island's largest minority is Hispanic, followed by African American, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. But African Americans and Native Americans have some of the highest rates of poor health, across a range of indicators, of any group.
- From Rhode Island Commission for Health Advocacy and Equity, Legislative Report, 2015
The news comes at a time when the Rhode Island Dept. of Health has invested in a group of projects aimed at reducing some health disparities. Several community organizations have won grants to build so-called “health equity zones” - neighborhoods where the conditions in which people work, learn, and play, as well as socioeconomic factors like poverty or access to healthy food or doctors put them at a disadvantage. One organization will use the money to open a new community garden in Olneyville; another will fund safer childcare and preschool centers. The rest of the projects range from preventing addiction and overdose deaths to boosting opportunities for exercise at school.
If the new data are any guide, the health department and its partners have their work cut out for them.
A few more highlights:
- This one is worth highlighting again: the African American infant mortality rate in Rhode Island is double the rate for whites. Nearly a fifth of pregnant African American women receive delayed prenatal care, compared to about 10 percent among whites.
- Children in Woonsocket, Central Falls, North and South Providence, and West Warwick have much higher rates of hospitalizations for asthma. These are neighborhoods where poverty and older housing (that could contain more asthma triggers, like dust) are more common.
- Blacks have much higher rates of chronic diseases than Hispanics or whites. Those diseases include diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and obesity. African American Rhode Islanders are also far less likely than other groups to have had a routine check up in the past year.
- Only about a third of Hispanic adults are getting enough exercise compared to other groups. Only Asian Rhode Islanders are eating enough fruits and vegetables (about a quarter eat the recommended five servings a day compared to around 15 percent for other groups).
- Overdose is the fifth leading cause of death for Hispanics; diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death for blacks in Rhode Island. For whites, the fifth leading cause of death is Alzheimer’s. Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death for all Rhode Islanders.
- Only about seven percent of white high schoolers rarely wear a seatbelt. For Asian and Pacific Islander kids, it’s higher, at about nine percent. Even more Native American (13%), Hispanic (16%), and African American (17%) kids are forgoing seatbelts. Why?