Life expectancy is a key metric in measuring public health and the chart below shows the life expectancy for everyone and then the white, black and Hispanic populations by race in Southeastern Michigan in 2019. The blue column shows what the average life expectancy was for all races in Southeastern Michigan, with Washtenaw County having the highest overall life expectancy at 84 years of age and Wayne County having the lowest at 75 years of age. The life expectancy for those in Michigan is 78 years of age.
When comparing life expectancy at the racial level in Southeastern Michigan we see that the black population had the lowest life expectancy across all counties while the Hispanic population typically had a higher life expectancy. Furthermore, Washtenaw County had the highest life expectancy for all of the populations examined, with the exception of the black population. In Washtenaw County, the life expectancy for the Hispanic population was 86; it was 76 for the black population and 82 for the white population.
Wayne County had the lowest life expectancy across all populations examined. In Wayne County, the life expectancy for the Hispanic population was 80, it was 72 for the black population and 77 for the white population.
For Livingston County, data was not available for the black population. Oakland County had the highest life expectancy for the black population at 77. This data is from the Centers for Disease Control 2019 Health Survey.
This data further highlights facts we all know; race and ethnicity do impact one’s life expectancy, as does where an individual lives, their education levels, income and genetic pre-dispositions. Of course, race often plays a factor into these factors as well. As we continue to explore health disparities it is vital to understand how underlying factors play a role in them and for us to determine how to create further equity in those too.
Such policies are certainly a tangled web, but their impacts are vast and have a direct impact on an individual’s life. Looking at the impact COVID-19 had on the black population in Michigan is an example of this. In April of 2020, it was found that 40 percent of COVID deaths at the time occurred in the black population, despite it only making up 14 percent of the State’s population. This staggering discovery brought on the creation of a statewide task force to investigate and address the disparity. According to the report the task force released in December, increased and strategic testing, primary care provider and telehealth access, public health campaigns and improved data quality on cases and deaths helped decrease the number of cases per capita in the black population. The number of cases between March and February dropped from 176 cases per million people per day to 44 cases per million people per day, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This decrease is a target result of targeted investigation, analysis and policy implementations. Now it is time to further the scope of such targeted efforts.