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CDC FINDS POOR EDUCATION CAN TAKE ITS TOLL ON HEALTH

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Americans who never graduated from high school are more likely to smoke, live a sedentary life and be overweight than more educated people - no matter what their race, federal health officials say.

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the first major study of education on the health of all races in the United States, said Nora Keenan, an epidemiologist with the center.It found that the correlation between health and education - first noted in whites - existed across the board, Keenan said.

Smoking, excess weight and lack of exercise put people at risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer - which account for about 70 percent of all U.S. deaths.

And people with less than 12 years of education were most likely to engage in those high-risk behaviors, the study found.

Keenan said the findings should alter how officials develop public health messages to reach those at highest risk as well as members of particular ethnic groups. For example, a pilot study to reach overweight black women used ethnic foods and materials and had black women as group leaders, she said.

Among the study's findings:

- For male Asians and Pacific Islanders, 34.4 percent of those with less than a high school diploma smoked, compared to 16.3 percent of those with more than 12 years of schooling.

- Among black women lacking a high school diploma, 50.9 percent were overweight, compared to 28.9 percent of those with more than 12 years of schooling.

- For Asian and Pacific Islander women with less than 12 years of education, 17.6 percent smoked, compared to 6.4 percent of those with more than 12 years' education.

- Among Hispanic women without a high school diploma, 34.7 percent were overweight, compared to 19.5 percent of those with more education.