Black Missourians are the second-largest ethnic or racial group in Missouri, but, as a group, they face the most significant burden of poor health outcomes and disease. Missourians of African descent (Black) have a life expectancy of 72.4 years compared to 77.6 years for white Missourians. Poverty, generally lower-income, and lack of health insurance coverage drive lowered life expectancy for black Missourians.
Missouri ranks 44th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for maternal mortality. Maternal mortality statistics are a proxy for the overall quality of the healthcare system in a state or country. Maternal mortality includes deaths related to pregnancy or deaths while pregnant, or deaths within one year postpartum. Maternal mortality statistics may paint a picture of unequal access to healthcare for Missourians of different skin color. Missouri’s maternal mortality more than doubled from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 births in 1987 to 17.2 deaths per 100,000 births in 2015. Black women are bearing the largest burden of maternal mortality in the state, 91.9 deaths per 100,000 compared to 32.9 deaths per 100,000 for white women. Black women also bear the burden of inadequate prenatal care access at a rate more than twice that of white women; 30.6 black mothers without access per 100 births, compared to 14 white women without access per 100 births. Black babies in Missouri are also more likely to be born premature, 17.8 premature births per 100 births for black Missourians compared to 11.2 premature births per 100 for white Missourians. As a result of these statistics, it’s no surprise the rate of infant death in the Missouri Black community is more than twice as high as in the white community, 15 deaths per 100 births versus 6.2 deaths per 100 births for white Missourians.
Non-communicable diseases account for nine of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States, and they are mostly preventable. Men and women in Missouri’s black community face the highest burden of non-communicable disease. Risk factors for all non-communicable diseases include tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, urbanization, poverty, wealth inequality, and indoor air pollution. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for non-communicable diseases in the U.S., and in Missouri, blacks are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than whites. Cancer is the second leading killer among non-communicable diseases. The cancer rate is higher for Missouri blacks, 513.5 cases per 100,000 to 451.6 cases per 100,000 for whites. Black Missourians also have more than twice the diabetes burden of white Missourians.
Black Missourians face a higher burden of infectious disease than white Missourians. Infectious diseases can be transmitted from person to person either directly (sexually transmitted, or through close contact) or indirectly (disease transmission through an intermediary like a mosquito). Blacks in Missouri are 8.2 times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS as whites and are 26 times more likely to contract gonorrhea. Black Missourians are nearly six times more likely to contract tuberculosis than whites. Blacks are twice as likely to contract West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite as whites.
Black Missourians also have the highest burden of death from violence. Blacks in Missouri are more than six times more likely to die from homicide than whites.
Thanks to Missouri Foundation for Health for their in-depth reports and research on health disparities in Missouri.