Racial/ethnic disparities in health and disease have been present in the United States for the past century. Although differences such as individual access to health care and health-related behaviors account for some of these health disparities, it is likely that a combination of individual and contextual-level factors determine the differential rates of disease between racial/ethnic groups. We studied fatal accidental drug overdose in New York City between 1990 and 1998 to describe differences in racial/ethnic patterns over time and to develop hypotheses about factors that might contribute to these differences. During this period, rates of overdose death were consistently higher among blacks and Latinos compared to whites. In addition, cocaine was more common among black decedents, while opiates and alcohol were more common among Latino and white decedents. Differences in situational factors, such as differential likelihood of activating emergency medical response, may in part explain the consistently higher overdose mortality rates observed among minorities. Further study to determine the individual and contextual factors that explain these observed disparities in overdose death may identify effective areas for public health intervention and provide insight into factors underlying racial/ethnic disparities in other health outcomes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health