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An Examination of Changes in Social Disparities in Health Behaviors in the US, 2003-2015

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Objectives: Due to growing health disparities, federal and philanthropic agencies have empha-sized reducing health disparities in their preventive health efforts. This study determined the status of disparities in health behaviors in the last 13 years in the United States. Methods: Data were obtained from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems in odd years (2003-2015). Health behaviors were dichotomized to reflect met fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption and physical activity (PA) recommendations, non-cigarette smoking, non-heavy drinking, and non-binge drinking. Overall and sociodemographic characteristic-specific disparities ratios for each behavior were calculated. Linear trend analyses were calculated to determine disparities change across the years. Results: Overall disparities fluctuated across the years. Linear trend analyses confirmed that education-specific and income-specific disparities' contribution to overall disparities increased for all behaviors. Sex-specific disparities' contribution decreased for all behaviors except non-cigarette smoking. Age-specific disparities' contribution decreased for all behaviors except non-binge drinking. Race/ethnicity-specific disparities' contribution to overall disparities increased for FV and non-cigarette smoking, but decreased for the other behaviors. Conclusions: The results suggest health disparities in preventive health behaviors in the last 13 years have not improved. Tailored interventions, systemic and policy changes, and/or inclusive population efforts should be initiated to reduce disparities in preventive health for the most- divergent groups identified in the results.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Eliot Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, School of Arts and Sciences, Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA 2: Office of Public Health Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, USA 3: Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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