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In Peoria County, Black residents are dying on average years before their white counterparts. Here's the breakdown

A chart comparing the death rates of white and Black men and women in Peoria County to the national averages.
Peoria City/County Health Department 2021 mortality report
A chart comparing the death rates of white and Black men and women in Peoria County to the national averages.

Black residents of Peoria County are dying at disproportionately higher rates than whites. And they're dying younger.

"Black people are dying approximately 14 years younger than white people on average in Peoria County, and have higher death rates and all age groups," said Tracy Terlinde, an epidemiologist with the Peoria City/County Health Department.

Those are just a couple takeaways from the 2021 Mortality Report released last month by the health department. It found that Black people through age 64 die at a rate twice that of their white counterparts in Peoria County.

The report also found people between zero to 34 and 45-54 living in the 61603 ZIP code are dying at higher rates than any other ZIP code in the county. That ZIP code includes the North Valley and East Bluff neighborhoods.

Terlinde said health disparities can adversely affect people who have systematically experienced greater health obstacles based on their race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, age, or location.

"We know poverty, racism, education, (and) access to health care (are) linked to chronic disease," Terlinde said.

Terlinde said the old adage of an apple a day keeping the doctor away only works if you can afford an apple or have access to the apple.

Heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19 were the three leading causes of death in Peoria County in 2021, followed by chronic respiratory diseases and accidents. Terlinde said COVID-19 death also disproportionately impacted Black Peoria County residents in 2021.

By age, homicide was the leading cause of death for Peoria County residents aged 15-34 in 2021. That year saw a record-setting 33 homicides in the city of Peoria. Homicide was the second leading cause of death for children under age 14, below prematurity.

Among people age 35 to 44, overdoses were the leading cause of death. Terlinde said the trend is moving in the right direction in Peoria County, however.

"As we've seen an increase with the state, the nation and surrounding counties with overdoses increasing, Peoria County has continued to decrease. And this could be attributed to the available of Narcan that we have in our county," she said.

Many of the 38 unintentional overdose deaths recorded in 2021 were due to fentanyl, said Terlinde. That's a powerful synthetic opioid often laced into other drugs, like cocaine or heroin. Narcan, or naloxone, can save the life of someone overdosing on fentanyl.

Black men and women experience higher death rates in Peoria County than the national average, as do white women. White men have death rates similar to the national average.

Terlinde said the strategy for reducing mortality rates and increasing well-being should be viewed through the lens of health disparities, which adversely affect people who face greater systemic barriers to health based on their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, age, or geographic location.

"The social determinants of health and health equity need to be priorities in this community. Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible by removing obstacles to health," she said. "The old saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away only works if you can afford an apple or have access to the apple."

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.