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Cardiovascular disease among Black Americans: comparisons between the U.S. Virgin Islands and the 50 U.S. states

OBJECTIVES: Consistent findings show that black Americans have high rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and related behavioral risk factors. Despite this body of work, studies on black Americans are generally limited to the 50 U.S. states. We examined variation in CVD and related risk factors among black Americans by comparing those residing within the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) with those residing in the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. (US 50/DC) and residing in different regions of the US 50/DC (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West). METHODS: Using data from the 2007 and 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, we compared CVD and CVD risk factor prevalence in non-Hispanic black people (>/=20 years of age) in the USVI and US 50/DC, examining the relative contributions of health behaviors, health insurance, and socioeconomic status (SES). RESULTS: Accounting for age, sex, education, health insurance, and health behaviors, US 50/DC black Americans were significantly more likely than USVI black people to report ever having a stroke and coronary heart disease, and to be hypertensive, diabetic, or obese. While there was heterogeneity by region, similar patterns emerged when comparing the USVI with different regions of the US 50/DC. CONCLUSION: USVI black people have lower CVD and risk factor prevalence than US 50/DC black people. These lower rates are not explained by differences in health behaviors or SES. Understanding health in this population may provide important information on the etiology of racial/ethnic variation in health in the U.S. and elsewhere, and highlight relevant public health policies to reduce racial/ethnic group disparities.