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MMWR Surveill Summ. 2011 May 20;60(6):1-44.

Surveillance of health status in minority communities - Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Across the U.S. (REACH U.S.) Risk Factor Survey, United States, 2009.

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  • 1Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC, MS K-30, 4770 Buford Hwy, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30341, USA.



Substantial racial/ethnic health disparities exist in the United States. Although the populations of racial and ethnic minorities are growing at a rapid pace, large-scale community-based surveys and surveillance systems designed to monitor the health status of minority populations are limited. CDC conducts the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health across the U.S. (REACH U.S.) Risk Factor Survey annually in minority communities. The survey focuses on black, Hispanic, Asian (including Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander), and American Indian (AI) populations.




An address-based sampling design was used in the survey in 28 communities located in 17 states (Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington). Self-reported data were collected through telephone, questionnaire mailing, and in-person interviews from an average of 900 residents aged ≥ 18 years in each community. Data from the community were compared with data derived from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for the metropolitan and micropolitan statistical area (MMSA), county, or state in which the community was located and also compared with national estimates.


Reported education level and household income were markedly lower in black, Hispanic, and AI communities than that among the general population living in the comparison MMSA, county, or state. More residents in these minority populations did not have health-care coverage and did not see a doctor because of the cost. Substantial variations were identified in self-perceived health status and prevalence of selected chronic conditions among minority populations and among communities within the same racial/ethnic population. In 2009, the median percentage of men who reported fair or poor health was 15.8% (range: 8.3%-29.3%) among A/PI communities and 26.3% (range: 22.3%-30.8%) among AI communities. The median percentage of women who reported fair or poor health was 20.1% (range: 13.3%-37.2%) among A/PI communities, whereas it was 31.3% (range: 19.4%-44.2%) among Hispanic communities. AI and black communities had a high prevalence of self-reported hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. For most communities, prevalence was much higher than that in the corresponding MMSA, county, or state in which the community was located. The median percentages of persons who knew the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke were consistently lower in all four minority communities than the national median. Variations were identified among racial/ethnic populations in the use of preventive services. Hispanics had the lowest percentages of persons who had their cholesterol checked, of those with high blood pressure who were taking antihypertensive medication, and of those with diabetes who had a glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1C) test in the past year. AIs had the lowest mammography screening rate within 2 years among women aged ≥40 years (median: 72.7%; range: 69.4%-76.2%). A/PIs had the lowest Pap smear screening rate within 3 years (median: 74.4%; range: 60.3%-80.8%). The median influenza vaccination rates in adults aged ≥65 years were much lower among black (57.3%) and Hispanic communities (63.3%) than the national median (70.1%) among the 50 states and DC. Pneumococcal vaccination rates also were lower in black (60.5%), Hispanic (58.5%), and A/PI (59.7%) communities than the national median (68.5%).


Data from the REACH U.S. Risk Factor Survey demonstrate that residents in most of the minority communities continue to have lower socioeconomic status, greater barriers to health-care access, and greater risks for and burden of disease compared with the general populations living in the same MMSA, county, or state. Substantial variations in prevalence of risk factors, chronic conditions, and use of preventive services among different minority populations and different communities within the same racial/ethnic population provide opportunities for public health intervention. These variations also indicate that different priorities are needed to eliminate health disparities for different communities.


These community-level survey data are being used by CDC and community coalitions to implement, monitor, and evaluate intervention programs in each community. Continuous surveillance of health status in minority communities is necessary so that community-specific, culturally sensitive strategies that include system, environmental, and individual-level changes can be tailored to these communities.

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