Race and Ethnicity
Current information about the biologic and genetic characteristics of African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders does not explain the health disparities experienced by these groups compared to white, non-Hispanic population in Louisiana. These disparities are believed to be the result of complex interaction among genetic variations, environmental factors and specific health behaviors.
Even though the state's infant mortality rate is slightly down, the infant mortality rate among African Americans is still more than double that of whites (13.6 per 1,000 live births compared to 5.7 for whites.). African Americans have higher rates of heart disease and cancer than whites. African American women have a higher death rate from breast cancer as a result of low mammography screenings. The death rate from HIV/AIDS is much higher than for whites; the rate of homicide among African Americans is considerably higher than whites.
Hispanics living in Louisiana and throughout the United States are almost twice as likely to die from diabetes as are non-Hispanic whites.
American Indians and Alaskan Natives have much higher infant deaths than whites. The rate of diabetes for this population group is more than twice that for whites. American Indians and Alaskan Natives also have disproportionately high deaths rates from unintentional injuries and suicide.
Asian and Pacific Islanders on average, have indicators of being one of the healthiest population groups in the United States and in Louisiana. However, there is great diversity within
this population group, and health disparities between some specific segments are quite marked. Women of Vietnamese origin, for example, suffer from cervical cancer at nearly five times the rate for white women. New cases of hepatitis and tuberculosis also are higher in Asians and Pacific Islanders living in the United States than whites.
Income and Education
Inequalities in income and education underlie many health disparities in Louisiana. Income and education are intrinsically related and often serve as proxy measures for each other. In general, population groups that suffer the worst health status also are those that have the highest poverty rates and the least education. Disparities in income and education levels are associated with differences in the occurrence of illness and death, including but not limited to, heart disease, obesity, elevated blood lead level, and low birth weight. Higher incomes permit increased access to medical care, enable people to afford better housing and live in safer neighborhoods, and increase the opportunity to engage in health-promoting behaviors.
Income inequality in Louisiana has increased over the past few decades. There are distinct demographic differences in poverty by race, ethnicity and household composition as well as geographical variations in poverty areas across the state. Recent health gains for the state as a whole appear to reflect achievements among the higher socioeconomic groups; lower socioeconomic groups continue to lag behind.