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Wide Gaps in Life Expectancy in the US

Scientists have found that Asian-American women have the top life expectancy in the U.S. whereas black men in some urban areas have the worst// , with a gap of almost two decades between the two..

According to a national study in today's PLoS Medicine online they have found that the life expectancy of Asian women was 86.7 years while for black men living in high-risk urban areas, it was 68.7 years. Leading among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., was Hawaii with a life expectancy of 80 years, while D.C. ranked last, with 72 years.

Lead investigator Christopher Murray said that the differences are driven by injury and preventable risk factors for long-term disease such as smoking, alcoholism and obesity, especially in Americans ages 15 to 59.

According to him most health-policy initiatives currently focus on children and the elderly.

Murray, Harvard Initiative for Global Health director, said ``The evidence is really quite clear that most of the gap across these groups is due to differences in mortality in young and middle-aged adult men and women and most of that is due to chronic disease. It's not HIV. It's not homicide. It's cardiovascular disease. It's chronic respiratory disease, liver disease and somewhat cancers.''

He stated that it was important to discovering the factors that underlie longevity gaps and that the life expectancy gaps won't close until the focus turns to Americans ages 15 to 59.

The life expectancy was calculated following the investigators dividing the country into eight groups based on such factors as race, population density, location, homicide rates and income to look at life expectancy.

The Census Bureau and Center for Health Statistics were the sources for these data. The study was financed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute on Aging and the Association of Schools for Public Health.

Hawaii's State Department of Hea lth cited climate and exercise as among the factors that led to the ranking of Hawaii in the life expectancy count.

Chiyome Fukino, health department director, said,``Our ethnic makeup also contributes to the longevity of our residents, with a large percentage of Americans of Asian decent. If you're going to live long, Hawaii is definitely the place to live.''

Washington, D.C., ranked last, with average life expectancy of 72 years, according to the study.

Gregg Pane, director of the District of Columbia Department of Health, said, ``I've seen the highlights of the study, and while it has some useful elements, I think the authors have mixed apples and oranges. What they're portraying is really not a valid comparison.''

Researchers advised that individuals should take action to improve life expectancy in their towns.

Murray said, ``There's a message here that you should be much more aware of the health circumstances of where you live and hopefully that will, as peoples' awareness goes up, will lead to more public action, individual and public action, civic action to figure out why levels of health in your community may be very poor and what you can do about it.''


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