NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Black Survival Rates Top Those Of Whites At VA Hospitals

January 17, 2001

A new study reveals that mortality rates among black men at Veterans Affairs hospitals are lower than for white men. The study, headed by Ashish Jha of San Francisco's VA medical center, counters allegations that racial discrimination leads to inferior health care for blacks in general.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that:

  • Blacks fared better than whites afflicted with six common illnesses -- pneumonia, angina, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and chronic kidney failure.
  • During the study period 1995-96, blacks had lower 30-day death rates than white patients.
  • At one month, mortality was 4.5 percent among blacks and 5.8 percent among whites.
  • In fact, mortality was lower among blacks for each of the six diseases -- and the findings were consistent across disease, age, financial status, length of stay and other measures, including geography.

Jha and his colleagues did not explain the reason for the outcomes.

But an accompanying JAMA editorial theorized that the survival difference might come from some unknown factor which the researchers did not measure. It suggested that the black population served by the VA might be healthier.

But Jha responds that all of the patients in the study were sick enough with major illnesses to be admitted to the hospitals.

The records of 28,934 whites and 7,575 blacks admitted for treatment at 147 VA hospitals formed the data base.

Source: Ashish K. Jha, "Racial Differences in Mortality Among Men Hospitalized in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System," Journal of the American Medical Association, January 17, 2001; Steve Sternberg, "Blacks Fare Better than Whites at VA Hospitals," USA Today, January 17, 2001.

For USA Today text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues