Premature death rate in MN higher for low-income people and people of color

Researchers looked at Minnesotans who died before they were 75 years old from diseases such as stroke, heart disease and treatable cancers. They found more than 14,000 of nearly 77,000 premature deaths between 2011 and 2015 were potentially avoidable with effective and timely health care.

State officials say the rate of potentially preventable deaths was more than twice as high for Minnesotans living in high poverty and racially-diverse areas compared to those in majority white or higher income areas.

The Minnesota Department of Health examined longevity in census tracts and found people in "higher income, majority white census tracts lived an average of 57 years, while those living in low-income, majority white census tracts lived 54 years.

"Among those in the study who were living in lower-income census tracts where the majority of people were people of color or American Indians and who died before age 75, the average was 50 years," the agency said in a Wednesday release.

State health economist Stefan Gildemeister said lack of health insurance is only partially to blame.

"It also has to do with how easy it is to find a way to the doctor, how approachable the technical terminology is and to understand insurance benefits and sort of systematic inequity in these aspects contribute to unequal outcomes in preventable mortality," Gildemeister said.

The Health Department said the analysis was not designed to find out specifically why people died prematurely. Other factors that may have contributed to early death included "systemic barriers related to structural racism or historical trauma or the cost of care."

Health officials estimate there were productivity losses of $1.3 billion over the five-year period due to premature deaths in Minnesota.