A Case Study of the Impact of Inaccurate Cause-of-Death Reporting on Health Disparity Tracking: New York City Premature Cardiovascular Mortality

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Abstract

Objectives

Heart disease death overreporting is problematic in New York City (NYC) and other US jurisdictions. We examined whether overreporting affects the premature (< 65 years) heart disease death rate disparity between non-Hispanic Blacks and non-Hispanic Whites in NYC.

Methods

We identified overreporting hospitals and used counts of premature heart disease deaths at reference hospitals to estimate corrected counts. We then corrected citywide, age-adjusted premature heart disease death rates among Blacks and Whites and a White-Black premature heart disease death disparity.

Results

At overreporting hospitals, 51% of the decedents were White compared with 25% at reference hospitals. Correcting the heart disease death counts at overreporting hospitals decreased the age-adjusted premature heart disease death rate 10.1% (from 41.5 to 37.3 per 100 000) among Whites compared with 4.2% (from 66.2 to 63.4 per 100 000) among Blacks. Correction increased the White-Black disparity 6.1% (from 24.6 to 26.1 per 100 000).

Conclusions

In 2008, NYC’s White-Black premature heart disease death disparity was underestimated because of overreporting by hospitals serving larger proportions of Whites. Efforts to reduce overreporting may increase the observed disparity, potentially obscuring any programmatic or policy-driven advances.

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