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January 3, 1986

Half Empty, Half Full: What We Know About Low Birth Weight Among Blacks

Author Affiliations

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Md

JAMA. 1986;255(1):86-88. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370010092032

In 1984, Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler appointed a task force on Black and Minority Health under the direction of Thomas E. Malone, PhD, deputy director of the National Institutes of Health. Concerned by the disparity between the health of minority Americans and that of the majority population—despite improving health for all— Secretary Heckler called for a study of the sources of the variations in health and the roles for her department in accelerating improvements in the health status of minorities. A review of the sources of the disparity showed that 80% of the excess mortality experienced by black Americans was accounted for by six categories: cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, violence, substance abuse, and infant mortality. For each of these areas, a subcommittee was formed to assess the state of knowledge and make recommendations. The infant mortality/low-birth-weight subcommittee commissioned papers and reviewed current knowledge on these topics,