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Health Disparities Between White And Black St. Louisans Have Worsened, Analysis Shows

Maria Fabrizio
New analysis shows that some health disparities have widened between black and white St. Louisans.

Mortality rates are continuing to widen between black and white St. Louisans, according to new analysis presented to a Board of Aldermen committee Thursday.

In 2016, black St. Louisans were 34% more likely to die of any cause than white residents, the analysis found. That number increased to 47% by 2018, the most recently available data. 

The analysis came from Cristina Garmendia, who was project manager for a report on racial disparities between black and white residents in St. Louis that the city published early last year. At Thursday’s Health and Human Services Committee meeting, she revisited the report’s findings and presented updated measures of health outcomes.

Black children were also three times more likely than white children to be diagnosed with lead poisoning in 2018, Garmendia said. That’s an increase from 2016 when black children were 1.7 times more likely to get that diagnosis, she told the committee. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead poisoning reporting standards has also changed over time, so more children may be diagnosed with lead poisoning based on amounts of lead that would not have been counted in 2016.) 

Garmendia also pointed to the higher rate of COVID-19 diagnosis among black St. Louisans as an emerging problem. 

The committee should request updated, race-specific data to re-examine the health disparities she had previously identified, Garmendia said, then use that data to inform future policy proposals. She also recommended funding more groups that try to eliminate disparities in health. 

Alderman Cara Spencer, who heads the committee, said she thinks the city needs to make decisions based on the reports measuring racial disparities in health outcomes. 

“We have read the [2019] report, and we have failed to really address what should come out of it,” she said. 

Spencer added that she intended to request additional data to further update the report.

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Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.