How Cumulative Risks Warrant a Shift in Our Approach to Racial Health Disparities

The Case of Lead, Stress, and Hypertension

Blacks have persistently higher rates of high blood pressure, or hypertension, compared to Whites, resulting in higher health costs and mortality rates.

Recent research has shown that social and environmental factors—such as high levels of stress and exposure to lead—may explain racial disparities in hypertension. Based on these findings, these researchers recommend a fundamental shift in approaches to health disparities to focus on these sorts of cumulative risks and health effects.

Federal and state agencies and research institutions should develop strategic plans to learn more about these connections and apply the broader findings to policies to reduce health disparities.