New Study Shows Black People Live Longer in Counties with Black Physicians

New Study Shows Black People Live Longer in Counties with Black Physicians

Black representation in the medical field is significant to the Black population.

A new study published in JAMA Network Open found that counties with a higher prevalence of Black doctors are linked to a longer life expectancy of Black people in those areas. Black people who resided in counties with more Black physicians had lower mortality from all causes and lower disparities in mortality rates compared to their white counterparts.

Primary care physician Monica Peek, also a health equity researcher at UChicago Medicine, wrote an editorial to go along with the findings from the new study. “That a single Black physician in a county can have an impact on an entire population’s mortality, it’s stunningly overwhelming,” Peek said. “It validates what people in health equity have been saying about all the ways Black physicians are important, but to see the impact at the population level is astonishing.”

Researchers from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the AAMC conducted the study by analyzing over 3,000 counties during 2009, 2014, and 2019. The team examined the representation of Black primary care physicians throughout the country, excluding those where no Black physicians were found. Researchers found a higher life expectancy in the 1,618 counties with at least one Black primary care physician within one of the three years.

“This is adding to the case for a more diverse physician workforce,” said Michael Dill, one of the co-authors of the new study.

The study found that the life expectancy in such counties increased by nearly one month for every 10% increase in Black primary care physicians. Additionally, every 10% increase in Black primary care physicians is linked to a 1.2% lower disparity rate between Black and white individuals in all mortality causes.

“These findings should serve as a wake-up call for healthcare leaders and policymakers,” Lisa Cooper, primary care physician and director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, told Stat News.

Rachel Upton, a social science analyst and one of the report’s lead authors, said the findings were unexpected. “It shows having Black physicians is not only helpful across the board, but it’s particularly useful with counties with high poverty,” she said.