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Are local health department expenditures related to racial disparities in mortality?

  This study estimated whether 1990-1997 changes in expenditures per capita of local health departments (LHDs) and percentage share of local public revenue allocated to LHDs were associated inversely with 1990-1997 changes in mortality rates for Black and White racial/ethnic groups in the US. Population was 883 local jurisdictions with 1990 and 1997 mortality rates for Black and White racial populations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wonder Compressed Mortality File and LHD expenditures from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Using a time-trend ecologic design, changes in LHD expenditures per capita and percentage share of public revenue were not related to reductions in Black/White disparities in total, all-cause mortality rates. Increased LHD expenditures or percentage share were associated with reduced Black/White disparities for adults aged 15-44 and males. LHD expenditures or percentage share were related to absolute reductions in mortality for infants, Blacks, and White females but did not close Black-White mortality differences for these groups. Therefore, disparities in Black and White mortality rates for subgroups with the greatest mortality gaps may be more likely to be reduced by public investment in local health departments than disparities in Black and White total, all-cause mortality rates.