HealthDay — An update on Americans’ health finds that racial and ethnic disparities persist, with significant gaps in obesity, cesarean births, and dental care. But advances have been made in some important areas, including infant mortality rates, women smokers, and numbers of uninsured, according to the new report from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The gap between the highest and lowest percentage of uninsured adults aged 18 to 64 decreased from 24.9% in 1999 (Hispanics vs whites) to 19.9% in the first 6 months of 2015 (Hispanics vs Asians). Uninsured rates improved among adults between 2013 and 2014 — falling 28% in states that expanded Medicaid programs to include low-income adults and 14% in states that did not expand Medicaid programs. Prescription drug spending continued to climb, totaling $297.7 billion in 2014 — up 12.2% from the previous year.

Regarding infant mortality among 5 ethnic/racial groups analyzed, the difference between the highest (blacks) and lowest (Asian/Pacific Islander) infant mortality rates narrowed from 9.41 deaths per 1000 live births in 1999 to 7.21 in 2013. Looking at low-risk cesarean deliveries from 1999 to 2014, researchers found that black mothers had the highest percentage (29.9% in 2014) among the 5 racial and ethnic groups, while American Indian or Alaska Native mothers had the lowest (21.5% in 2014). Cuban mothers had the highest percentage of low-risk cesarean deliveries among the 5 Hispanic groups (41.4% in 2014), while Mexicans had the lowest (24.1% in 2014).

Childhood obesity rates varied widely, too. Hispanics aged 2 to 19 had the highest rate of obesity (21.9%) between 2011 and 2014, while Asians had the lowest rate (8.6%). Among women, the divide between the highest (white) and lowest (Asian) rates of current cigarette smokers narrowed from 17.5% in 1999 to 13.2% in 2014. Hispanic adults were most likely to go without needed dental care in 2014. Nearly 16% had not received needed dental care in the prior 12 months because of cost; this was true for just over 6% of Asians.

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