In the United States, disparities in risks for chronic disease (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer) and injury exist among racial and ethnic groups. This report summarizes findings from the 1997 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) of the distribution of access to health care, health-status indicators, health-risk behaviors, and use of clinical preventive services across five racial and ethnic groups (i.e., whites, blacks, Hispanics, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Asians or Pacific Islanders) and by state.
The BRFSS is a state-based telephone survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized, adult (i.e., persons aged > or = 18 years) population. In 1997, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico participated in the BRFSS.
Variations in risk for chronic disease and injury among racial and ethnic groups exist both within states and across states. For example, in Arizona, 11.0% of whites, 26.2% of Hispanics, and 50.5% of American Indians or Alaska Natives reported having no health insurance. Across states, the median percentage of adults who reported not having this insurance ranged from 10.8% for whites to 24.5% for American Indians or Alaska Natives. Other findings are as follows. Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Asians or Pacific Islanders were more likely than whites to report poor access to health care (i.e., no health-care coverage and cost as a barrier to obtaining health care). Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives were more likely than whites and Asians or Pacific Islanders to report fair or poor health status, obesity, diabetes, and no leisure-time physical activity. Blacks were substantially more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to report high blood pressure. Among all groups, American Indians or Alaska Natives were the most likely to report cigarette smoking. Except for Asians or Pacific Islanders, the median percentage of adults who reported not always wearing a safety belt while driving or riding in a car was > or = 30%. The Papanicolaou test was the most commonly reported screening measure: > or = 81% of white, black, and Hispanic women with an intact uterine cervix reported having had one in the past 3 years. Among white, black, and Hispanic women aged > or = 50 years, > or = 63% reported having had a mammogram in the past 2 years. Approximately two thirds of white, black, and Hispanic women aged > or = 50 years reported having had both a mammogram and a clinical breast examination in the past 2 years; this behavior was least common among Hispanics and most common among blacks. Screening for colorectal cancer was low among whites, blacks, and Hispanics aged > or = 50 years: in each racial or ethnic group, < or = 20% reported having used a home-kit blood stool test in the past year, and < or = 30% reported having had a sigmoidoscopy within the last 5 years.
Differences in median percentages between racial and ethnic groups, as well as between states within each racial and ethnic group, are likely mediated by various factors. According to published literature, socioeconomic factors (e.g., age distribution, educational attainment, employment status, and poverty), lifestyle behaviors (e.g., lack of physical activity, alcohol intake, and cigarette smoking), aspects of the social environment (e.g., educational and economic opportunities, neighborhood and work conditions, and state and local laws enacted to discourage high-risk behaviors), and factors affecting the health-care system (e.g., access to health care, and cost and availability of screening for diseases and health-risk factors) may be associated with these differences. ACTION TAKEN: States will continue to use the BRFSS to collect information about health-risk behaviors among various racial and ethnic groups. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)