By now, it’s no secret that many people in Seattle want to be able to live and work in the city, whether they’re new residents or longtime residents.
But as the city grapples with the ongoing opioid crisis, it may be important to remember that not all of Seattle’s residents are white, straight, cis, able-bodied, and middle class.
A new study from the University of Washington shows that the city’s most visible minorities may not be the people we think they are.
“Our findings are consistent with previous research that shows that in many cities, diverse people of color are at greater risk for health disparities, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes,” Dr. Matthew Tully, lead author of the study, told Vox.
“For example, among people who have diabetes, we found that people with diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease, strokes, and cancer.
Similarly, among those with diabetes, people with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to have hypertension, and those with Type 1 diabetes are less likely to live well,” Tully said.
“While it’s important to recognize that this is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon, we can take steps to improve health for people of diverse backgrounds and to encourage their participation in our community.”
Tully and his colleagues analyzed data from the Seattle Department of Health and the Seattle Health Department to determine what factors contribute to the racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes in the cities they studied.
“We found that many of the people with health disparities that we found in Seattle were at least somewhat different than the people who we thought they were,” Tullys said.
In the study’s abstract, the researchers write that “some of the most visible health disparities in Seattle are related to the characteristics of those who live here.”
“Some of these health disparities were associated with a diversity of racial and/or ethnic groups,” TULLY said.
For example:The researchers found that in Seattle, people of African-American ethnicity were more likely than white people to be overweight, and their health disparities also differed significantly from those of other ethnic groups.
The researchers also found that there was a significant racial disparity in health and obesity rates, with black people more likely (but not significantly more likely) to be obese than other racial groups.
But there were also racial disparities in life expectancy and health outcomes.
The research team found that the health disparities of African Americans are related specifically to racial/ethnic group differences in life-span, mortality, and hospitalization rates.
“Black people had a lower life expectancy, were less likely than other groups to be in stable, long-term care, and had higher rates of hospitalizations than white adults, as well as being at higher odds for obesity,” TULY said, “and this difference is consistent with our previous research.”
In addition to highlighting the health of these communities, the study also highlighted how the racial disparities may be more common in cities with a larger number of minority populations, like New York City and Chicago.
“While we can’t say that these racial disparities are universal, the findings do indicate that they are prevalent and may reflect health disparities among those populations,” TILLY said in a press release.
“There are also other racial disparities that are associated with poverty and incarceration that are largely not apparent in our data,” Tilly said.
“These are not isolated health disparities and we need to address these disparities, and we will continue to work to better understand these disparities and how they may be contributing to health disparities,” TILTS said.
According to the researchers, it is important for cities to address the health gaps that exist in the racial/ethnically diverse populations they serve.
“We must work together to address racial disparities, whether it’s policies, services, and interventions, or in terms of public health, education, and infrastructure,” TALLYS said.