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Officials Set $3-Million Plan To Improve Blacks' Health

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Improving the health status of black Americans to equal that of non-Hispanic whites would reduce the number of deaths among blacks each year by nearly 60,000, a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services argues.

Among other statistics, the study of the health problems of minority groups notes the dramatic difference in the rates of death by homicide between young black and white males. It cites homicide as the leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old black males--72 deaths per 100,000 in 1982 compared with 13.1 per 100,000 whites. Homicide was included as a health problem in the study, according to hhs, because it is so often connected with alcohol or drug abuse.

At a news conference to release the findings, Secretary of Health4and Human Services Margaret Heckler said she would allocate $3-million in the current fiscal year to establish a new office within the Public Health Service to supervise federal efforts to improve the health of members of minority groups.

"Although tremendous strides have been made in improving the health and longevity of the American people," the hhs report states, "significant health inequities" still exist for blacks and other minority groups.

The year-long study by a 19-member task force examined government statistics on minority health problems from 1979 to 1981. It found that many more blacks than whites die from heart disease, homicide, cancer, low birthweight, cirrhosis, and diabetes. "These six categories account for more than 80 percent of the total disparity in health status," Ms. Heckler said.

Compared with health rates among whites, the report estimated that there were 18,000 "excess deaths" among blacks each year from heart disease and strokes, 11,000 from homicide and accidents, 8,100 from cancer, 6,100 from infant mortality, 2,150 from cirrhosis, and 1,850 from diabetes.

The health status of the Hispanic population on similar measures lies midway between that of blacks and non-Hispanic whites, according to the study. Asian-Americans fare better than whites in most categories, it notes.

The report said that many of the major health problems of minority groups could be prevented by public-information programs tailored to their specific needs.--

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