Stroke Disparities Examined in Final Milbank Lecture

Younger African American men are many times more likely to suffer a stroke than their same-aged peers of other races. And this “immense disparity” is perhaps growing.

In the final Milbank Lecture of the school’s centennial year celebration, George Howard, Dr.PH., professor at the University of Alabama School of Public Health, said that African Americans between the ages of 45 and 65 have a 300 percent greater chance of having a stroke.

He called it one of the “largest disparities of any disease” and said it has persisted and the gap might be widening further.

The question, Howard said, is: are more African Americans having strokes or are more dying from their strokes? Given that hypertension and diabetes are two risk factors, Howard said it’s significant that 29 percent of blacks have diabetes and 71 percent have hypertension. Once the risk factors are understood, he said, interventions can be mounted to reduce the disparities, with prevention being the goal, not treatment.

Calling him an “outstanding colleague and generous mentor” who has been “fundamentally involved” with many of the studies used by public health scholars, Judith Lichtman, associate professor and chair of the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, introduced Howard to the audience gathered in Winslow Auditorium on Thursday.

A series of seven Milbank Lectures have been held this year in recognition of public health initiatives supported both by the School of Public Health and the Milbank Memorial Fund. Milbank engages in nonpartisan analysis, collaboration, and communication on issues in health policy.

The six other lectures were delivered by Mitchell H. Gail, senior investigator, biostatistics branch at the National Institutes of Health; Harold Jaffe, associate director of science at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Pia Britto, senior UNICEF adviser; Lynn Goldman, dean of public health, George Washington University; U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; and Ana Diez Roux, dean, Drexel University School of Public Health.

This article was submitted by Denise Meyer on December 4, 2015.

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Judith Hilevi Lichtman

Department Chair and Associate Professor of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases)