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Why is life expectancy so low in Black neighborhoods?

Earlier this year, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) published data showing a 1.5-year decline in national life expectancy in 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which took the lives of approximately 375,000 Americans that year….

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By Andre M. Perry, Carl Romer, Anthony Barr

Earlier this year, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) published data showing a 1.5-year decline in national life expectancy in 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which took the lives of approximately 375,000 Americans that year. The NCHS reported that white Americans’ life expectancy declined by 1.2 years; for Black Americans, that number was 2.9 years.

This racial disparity in life expectancy is a lagging indicator of disparities that have existed throughout the pandemic. According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Black people are 1.1 times more likely than white people to contract COVID-19; 2.8 times more likely to be hospitalized with the virus; and two times more likely to die from it. These disparities help to explain why, when adjusting for age, Black people account for 22.1% of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths despite only comprising 12.8% of the population.

The causes of these racial disparities are hotly debated, and many fixate on the role of individual behavior—for example, a recent Brookings analysis cited vaccine hesitancy as a key driver of disparate death rates. But while personal behavior matters, social determinants of health at the local level play an outsized role. Because de jure and de facto segregation concentrated Black Americans in specific locales, racial injustices have occurred through place-based discrimination: disproportionate exposure to pollution and hazardous waste, harmful zoning practices, and post-disaster displacement, to name a few. Rather than blaming Black people for their suffering, the conditions of place must be examined to understand the mechanics of racial discrimination that contribute to that suffering.

Two findings highlight hyperlocal variation in life expectancy prior to the pandemic

Finding #1: Neighborhood life expectancy correlates with neighborhood demographics

We compared life expectancy across neighborhoods where the population of Black residents ranged from less than 1% to over 50%. The graph below shows that at the national level, neighborhood life expectancy decreases as the Black population percentage increases. Neighborhoods with a 10% Black population or higher have an overall life expectancy lower than the national average of 78.7 years. Black-majority neighborhoods have a lower life expectancy by approximately 4.1 years, and neighborhoods with a Black population of less than 1% have a higher life expectancy by around one year compared to the national average.

Throughout the pandemic, most geographic analyses of differing health outcomes focused on comparing different states, metro areas, and counties. The comparisons are important, but these geographic areas are not homogenous units. There can often be as many stark differences found within a metro area as are found across metro areas—a fact underscored in our second finding below.

Finding #2: Neighborhood life expectancy disparities exist relative to the surrounding metro area

We found that Black-majority neighborhoods had relatively lower life expectancy when compared to the aggregate metro area in which those neighborhoods were located. As shown in the map below, the difference in life expectancy between a Black-majority neighborhood and its surrounding metro area can be as high as nine years.

Map 1

Both findings illuminate the fact that racial gaps in life expectancy manifest as place-based problems. But one alternative way of interpreting these findings is that Black people might carry life expectancy decline with them into the neighborhoods they live in, such that the crucial variable is the people, not the place. Supporters of this view could point to the fact that there are persistent (though narrowing) nationally aggregated racial gaps in life expectancy that extend backward for many decades.

While there is some credence to this view, we don’t think it tells the full story. For example, recent research comparing states found that “geographic inequality in mortality for midlife Americans increased by about 70 percent between 1992 and 2016”—underscoring the significance of place as a driver of outcomes. Additional research using experimental and quasi-experimental methods further highlights the role of neighborhoods as a driver of health and well-being outcomes.

In our recent report on social determinants of health, we identified two place-specific factors that help explain disparities in health outcomes: housing insecurity (including rates of foreclosure and eviction) and exposure to environmental hazards (particularly toxic air), which are both more common in Black neighborhoods. Social determinants related to labor markets—including labor force participation, employment conditions, and access to employer-sponsored health care—are additional factors that are often highly correlated with neighborhood characteristics and location.

Thus, a better interpretation for neighborhood-level differences in life expectancy is that whiteness bestows a noticeable social and economic premium on localities, including neighborhoods—where whiteness is understood not as an intrinsic individual characteristic but rather as a social construct that enables various systemic and structural advantages for these neighborhoods compared to Black neighborhoods.

As an initial example of these structural advantages and disadvantages, previous Brookings research found persistent devaluation of homes in Black-majority neighborhoods, even when controlling for objective metrics such as home size and neighborhood amenities. Contrary to what other researchers have claimed, additional research by our team clearly demonstrates that these disparities are not driven by socioeconomic factors but are instead the result of racial bias, as these neighborhoods are systematically viewed as less safe and of lesser quality based on racial makeup.

As a result of this bias and devaluation, once-successful Black neighborhoods often undergo cycles of disinvestment and disrepair, priming them for gentrification. In addition to undermining Black wealth for individuals and the community, this devaluation also erodes tax revenue via property tax, which compromises the ability of localities to adequately fund public goods and services. White neighborhoods benefit from the opposite dynamic, wherein homes are overvalued relative to the tax-assessed value. Our team has also established evidence that these same undervaluation issues are found in regards to Black businesses.

This interpretation of white privilege as a spatial phenomenon rather than an individual characteristic helps to explain why life expectancy in white neighborhoods is higher even as there have been persistent declines in life expectancy for white people in recent years. For example, from 2013 to 2014, life expectancy decreased for white people but increased for Black people—yet this does not show up at the neighborhood-level analysis. And from 2014 to 2015, there was a national aggregate life expectancy decline of 0.2%—but when disaggregated by race, Black people had a lower decline (0.1%) than white people (0.2%).

Thus, we believe that neighborhood-level differences in life expectancy connect to residential segregation, which is often driven by income and wealth stratification reflecting a legacy of systemic racism.

Residential segregation is the highest it has been in decades  

Pundits and politicians often speak about racial progress as though it is an inevitable march in the right direction. But at least on some metrics, we have lost ground compared to previous decades. This is especially the case when it comes to racial integration in major metro areas.

According to research from the University of California, Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute, “81 percent of metropolitan regions with a population above 200,000 were more segregated in 2019 than they were in 1990.” The report found that these segregation patterns both reflect and extend the systemic racism encoded in 20th century law: “83 percent of neighborhoods that were given poor ratings (or ‘redlined’) in the 1930s by a federal mortgage policy were as of 2010 highly segregated communities of color.” These patterns directly shape the financial characteristics of these neighborhoods, with the report finding that “neighborhood poverty rates are highest in segregated communities of color (21 percent), which is three times higher than in segregated white neighborhoods (7 percent).”

In her new book, Georgetown Law professor Sheryll Cashin describes these segregation patterns as “a system of residential caste that harms those who cannot buy their way into bastions of affluence.” In the context of our research, we add that this racialized residential caste system affects which neighborhoods can buy their way into better communal health outcomes. Since neighborhoods are often the starting point of the social determinants of health we explored in our report, accessing “better” neighborhoods—neighborhoods with cleaner air quality, more green space, higher public expenditure on public goods—can add years of life.

To be clear, we believe there are many social and political benefits to having more racially integrated neighborhoods. And we strongly object to the many ways that white enclaves of wealth use restrictive zoning, real estate steering, and other such practices to make it harder for Black people to move into the neighborhood. But Black people should not have to attach themselves to places that benefit from white privilege in order to flourish. Living in a Black-majority neighborhood should not be a death sentence imposed via lack of public investment and the kinds of “boundary maintenance, opportunity hoarding and stereotype-driven surveillance” patterns that Cashin describes.

As we slowly recover from the intersecting health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to advocate for the kind of public investment that will create greater equity and allow for everyone to live healthily—regardless of their race or place.

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University of Kentucky researchers develop online portal to show how biases in RNA sequences affect gene expression

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 29, 2022) — A recent publication from researchers at the University of Kentucky explains the importance of identifying and understanding…

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 29, 2022) — A recent publication from researchers at the University of Kentucky explains the importance of identifying and understanding how differences between tissues and cells alter gene expression without changing the underlying genetic code.

Credit: Pete Comparoni | University of Kentucky Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 29, 2022) — A recent publication from researchers at the University of Kentucky explains the importance of identifying and understanding how differences between tissues and cells alter gene expression without changing the underlying genetic code.

Introductory biology classes teach that DNA is transcribed into RNA, which is then translated into proteins. However, many cellular processes affect how quickly transcription and translation occur. Gene expression looks at the differences in RNA concentrations within a cell, and it can help scientists know which genes are active within that tissue or cell.

“Changes in gene expression can significantly affect various diseases and disease trajectories,” said Justin Miller, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UK College of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Miller, who is also affiliated with the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and Biomedical Informatics, says he and his colleagues previously developed the first algorithm to identify ramp sequences from a single gene sequence. Through their recent work, Miller and fellow UK co-authors Mark Ebbert, Ph.D., and Matthew Hodgman created an online version of that algorithm and showed that ramp sequences change between tissues and cells without changing the RNA sequence.

A ramp sequence is part of the RNA sequence that slows translation at the beginning of the gene by using codons (sequences of three DNA or RNA nucleotides) that are not easily translated. Ramp sequences counterintuitively increase overall gene expression by evenly spacing the translational machinery and preventing collisions later in translation.

In their recent publication in NAR Genomics and Bioinformatics, the researchers present the first comprehensive analysis of tissue- and cell type-specific ramp sequences and report more than 3,000 genes with ramp sequences that change between tissues and cell types, which correspond with increased gene expression within those tissues and cells.

“This research is the first time that variable ramp sequences have been described. Our comprehensive web interface allows other researchers to creatively explore ramp sequences and gene expression,” said Miller.

The research team says this work is important because while there are multiple ways for our RNA to encode the same proteins, the specific RNA sequence is important to regulate protein and RNA levels.

“Essentially, a ramp sequence works like an on-ramp to a freeway so that ribosomes do not crash into each other, but the length and speed limit of that onramp can change depending on the cell and the available resources within that cell,” Miller explained.

He says he enjoyed working on this project not only with his colleagues at UK but as well as his former colleagues at Brigham Young University and his brother, Kyle Miller, at Utah Valley University. Together, the group created a web interface for people to see how ramp sequences correspond with human and COVID-19 gene expression in different tissues and cells.

Miller says he believes this work will eventually impact patient care. “We created an online interface for researchers to query all human genes and see if a specific gene has a ramp sequence in a given tissue and how that gene is expressed within that tissue,” said Miller. “We also show that various COVID-19 genes and human entry factors for COVID-19 have ramp sequences that change between different tissues. Ramp sequences are much more likely to occur in tissues where the virus is known to proliferate.”

So, the researchers believe that COVID-19 genes have genetic biases (ramp sequences) that allow them to use the available cellular machinery to increase their expression. “Our research may help us better predict which tissues and cells new viruses will infect and also provides a potential therapeutic target to regulate tissue-specific gene expression without changing the translated protein,” said Miller.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers P30AG072946 and R01AG068331, and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R35GM138636. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

This work was also funded by the BrightFocus Foundation, under awards A2020118F and A2020161S, and the Alzheimer’s Association, under award 2019-AARG-644082.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for” three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes’ list of “America’s Best Employers.”  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.


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White House Is Quietly Modeling For $200 Oil “Shock”

White House Is Quietly Modeling For $200 Oil "Shock"

While the Biden administration is hoping and praying that someone – anyone – will watch…

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White House Is Quietly Modeling For $200 Oil "Shock"

While the Biden administration is hoping and praying that someone - anyone - will watch the comical "Jan 6" kangaroo hearsay court taking place in Congress and meant to somehow block Trump from running for president in 2024 while also making hundreds of millions of Americans forget that the current administration could very well be the worst in US history, it is quietly preparing for the worst.

As none other than pro-Biden propaganda spinmaster CNN reports, when it comes to what really matters (at least according to Gallup), namely the economy, and specifically galloping gasoline prices, the White House is in a historic shambles.

For an administration that ended last year forecasting a leveling off of 40-year high inflation and eager to tout a historically rapid recovery from the pandemic-driven economic crisis, there is a level of frustration that comes with an acutely perilous moment. Asked by CNN about progress on a seemingly intractable challenge, another senior White House official responded flatly: "Which one?"

The suspects behind the historic implosion are well known: "soaring prices, teetering poll numbers and congressional majorities that appear to be on the brink have created no shortage of reasons for unease. Gas prices are hovering at or around $5 per gallon, plastered on signs and billboards across the country as a symbolic daily reminder of the reality -- one in which White House officials are extremely aware -- that the country's view of the economy is growing darker and taking Biden's political future with it."

"You don't have to be a very sophisticated person to know how lines of presidential approval and gas prices go historically in the United States," a senior White House official told CNN.

A CNN Poll of Polls average of ratings for Biden's handling of the presidency finds that 39% of Americans approve of the job he's doing. His numbers on the economy, gas prices and inflation specifically are even worse in recent polls. What CNN won't tell you is that Biden is now polling well below Trump at this time in his tenure.

The CNN article then goes into a lengthy analysis of what is behind the current gasoline crisis (those with lots of time to kill can read it here) and also tries to explains, without actually saying it, that the only thing that can fix the problem is more supply, but - as we first explained - this can't and won't happen because green fanatics and socialist environmentalists will never agree to boosting output.

Which brings us to the punchline: as CNN's Phil Mattingly writes, "instead of managing an economy in the midst of a natural rotation away from recovery and into a stable period of growth, economic officials are analyzing and modeling worst-case scenarios like what the shock of gas prices hitting $200 per barrel may mean for the economy."

Well, in an article titled "Give us a plan or give us someone to blame", this seems like both a plan, and someone to blame.

But unfortunately for Biden - and CNN which is hoping to reset expectations - it's only going to get worse, because as we noted moments ago, while nobody was paying attention, Cushing inventories dropped to just 1 million away from operational bottoms at roughly 20MM barrels. This means that the US is officially looking at tank bottoms.

But wait, there's more... or rather, it's even worse, because as even Bloomberg's chief energy guru Javier Blas notes, over the last 2 weeks, the US gov has drained 13.7 million barrels from the SPR, "and yet, commercial oil stockpiles still fell 3 million barrels over the period."

Just imagine, Blas asks rhetorically, "if the SPR wasn't there. Or what would happen post-Oct when sales end."

And here is the punchline: at the current record pace of SPR drainage, one way or another the Biden admin will have to end its artificial attempts to keep the price of oil lower some time in October (or risk entering a war with China over Taiwan with virtually no oil reserve). This means that unless Putin ends his war some time in the next 5 months, there is a non-trivial chance that oil will hit a record price around $200 - precisely the price the White House is bracing for - a few days before the midterms. While translates into $10+ gasoline.

And while one can speculate how much longer Democrats can continue the "Jan 6" dog and pony show as the entire economy implodes around them, how America will vote in November when gas is double digits should not be a mystery to anyone.

Tyler Durden Wed, 06/29/2022 - 13:05

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European Commission says it doesn’t have texts between president Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla

Under fire from the European ombudsman, the Commission said on Wednesday that it hasn’t found any text messages between president Ursula von der Leyen…

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Under fire from the European ombudsman, the Commission said on Wednesday that it hasn’t found any text messages between president Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer chief Albert Bourla regarding the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.

The messages became of interest last April, when the New York Times reported that a series of texts and calls between von der Leyen and Bourla led to Pfizer’s largest vaccine deal — 900 million doses of the current vaccine and a vaccine adapted to variants, with the option to purchase an additional 900 million doses through 2023.

Emily O’Reilly

Upon a public access request made by a journalist, the EC responded that it had no record of them. However, it was later revealed by ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, the EU’s internal watchdog, that the EC never explicitly asked the cabinet to look for the texts.

Instead, the EC requested other documents that fall under its internal criteria for recording, which doesn’t include text messages.

O’Reilly accused the Commission of “maladministration,” and urged the administration to conduct a more thorough search.

“When it comes to the right of public access to EU documents, it is the content of the document that matters and not the device or form,” she said in a statement back in January. “If text messages concern EU policies and decisions, they should be treated as EU documents.”

On Wednesday, the EC claimed to side with O’Reilly: “The Commission and the Ombudsman agree that what matters is the content of a document,” a spokesperson said in an email to Endpoints News. 

However, the Commission maintained that the texts were not registered as documents “due to their short-lived and ephemeral nature.”

“Text and instant messages in general do not contain important information relating to policies, activities and decisions of the Commission, nor are they in the possession of the institution,” the EC shared in a letter.

The administration added that it intends to issue further guidance on the use of “modern communication tools” such as text and instant messages to clear up any confusion.

“The Ombudsman could equally be invited to participate in those discussions, if she wishes to do so,” the statement said.

Pfizer declined to comment on the content of the text messages.

Stella Kyriakides

The EC struck its third vaccine deal with Pfizer and BioNTech last May, after its other major supplier AstraZeneca ran into production issues and announced it would significantly reduce deliveries.

The contract, which called for up to 1.8 billion doses through 2023, also reserved the EU right to resell or donate doses to countries in need.

“We need to be one step ahead of the virus. This means having access to adapted vaccines to protect us against the threat of variants, booster vaccines to prolong immunity, as well as protecting our younger population,” commissioner for health and food safety Stella Kyriakides said at the time.

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