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As the U.S. changes, so do overall health needs

(HealthDay News) -- Racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States are expected to double in size during the 21st century. By contrast, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the long-standing majority group -- non-Hispanic whites -- will make up just 40 percent of the country's population by 2100.

But study after study and survey after survey have found that, as diversity has increased, so have disparities in health and health care.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such health indicators as life expectancy and infant mortality have improved for most U.S. residents, but not for many minorities, who experience a disproportionate burden of preventable disease, death and disability, compared with non-minorities.

The gaps may be attributable to many factors, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, including differences in access to health care and increased risk for disease from occupational exposure and from underlying genetic, ethnic or familial factors.

That has prompted the agency to increase its efforts to ensure that medically underserved populations benefit equally from the government's research and outreach efforts.

As the CDC says in its guiding principle for improving minority health, "The future health of the nation will be determined to a large extent by how effectively we work with communities to reduce and eliminate health disparities between non-minority and minority populations experiencing disproportionate burdens of disease, disability, and premature death."

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