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U.S. sees biggest drop in life expectancy since WWII

Life expectancy is down by one year on average. African Americans and Hispanic people were most adversely impacted.

TAMPA, Fla. — Life expectancy fell in the US by a full year in the first half of 2020, as the coronavirus was sweeping the nation. That's the largest drop in more than a half-century. And, Black Americans were hit the worst. 

According to data from the CDC, the life expectancy for black people decreased by 2.7 years, for Hispanic people by 1.9 years, and for white people by 0.8 years. 

Part of the problem is that black people are more likely to have underlying health conditions that make COVID-19 more lethal.

"So individuals that have historic components of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular conditions are far more susceptible. And these are things that have affected the African American community much more historically, over the past 100 years," said Dr. Kevin Sneed, the senior associate vice president of USF Health and dean of the Taneja College of Pharmacy.  

Sneed says that, unfortunately, the life expectancy will likely drop more. 

"To find this information coming after just half of the year in 2020, we really need to be aware that we're probably going to see a further drop in the life expectancy for Americans and in particular, for Americans of color."

Sneed says changes need to be made in multiple areas to address the health disparities plaguing our African American and minority communities, "We really have to take an overall systemic approach to improving the health status of individuals, whether it be improved access, improve number of physicians and other providers, better education, better nutrition, you know, financial literacy, all of these add into really the public health components of what really makes a healthy community."

And when it comes to COVID-19, getting access to vaccines is key.

So far, Florida is lacking. Black Americans make up 16.9% of the state's population, but for the vaccinated population of Floridians, they only make up 5.4%.

Efforts are being made to bring vaccines to churches, like Reverend Wayne Thompson's church, "First Baptist Institutional Church."

"Could we do more? Yes. But we are working with what we, as we always do, working with was made available and we are fighting for our chance to get more for our people," said Reverend Thompson.

But, the work is clearly far from over.

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