Homicide is the largest contributor to potential years of life lost among black Americans, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.
In contrast, homicide was only the 12th highest contributor to potential years of loss life for white Americans.
“Do Black Lives Matter in Public Health Research and Training?” reviewed all deaths of white and black Americans in 2015 and calculated the potential years of life lost for each of 31 causes of death. By reviewing potential years of life lost (PYLL) instead of simply number of annual deaths, the study was better able to capture the loss of human potential as well as the burden of premature deaths.
Homicide was the number one contributor to PYLL among black Americans, while ischemic heart disease was the number one contributor to PYLL among white Americans.
Molly Rosenberg, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, contends that although black Americans are disproportionately affected by homicide, the amount invested in homicide research is dramatically underrepresented in public health, according to
“Homicide is, unfortunately, a common cause of premature death, and black Americans are more likely to be affected by homicide than white Americans,” Rosenberg said. “Homicide-related deaths in America, most of which are caused by firearms, constitute a public health crisis. Yet when we look at what kind of public health research gets funded and published, we find homicide to be conspicuously absent. The top causes of death that impact the health of white Americans, on the other hand, are much better represented in public health research and funding.”
The average age of black homicide victims was 31. The more than 2.7 million deaths in the U.S. in 2015 tallied up to nearly 21.4 million potential years of life lost. Black Americans accounted for 20 percent of these years despite representing only 13 percent of the U.S. population.
“Homicide research is dramatically underrepresented in public health research investments in terms of grant funding and publications, despite available public health training opportunities,” the study concludes. “If left unchecked, the observed disproportionate distribution of investments in public health resources threatens to perpetuate a system that disadvantages black Americans.