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Appold, Stephen J.; Johnson, James H., Jr.; & Kasarda, John D. (2012). The Economic Impact of Racial Health Disparities in North Carolina. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


North Carolina’s emerging knowledge economy is built on a foundation of what economists call human capital, the knowledge and capabilities of the labor force. Human capital, in turn, rests on two inter-twined pillars: (a) skills development through education, training, and work experience; (b) and good health which increases the value of acquired skills in the labor market. But North Carolinians carry a heavy burden of illness and injury, which not only generates human suffering and shortens life but also imposes costs on the state economy in three ways: (1) private health insurance premiums for employees and their dependents are higher than they otherwise would be; (2) public insurance premiums for the elderly, children, and the poor are higher than they otherwise would be; and (3) worker productivity is much lower than it otherwise would be, diminishing economic output and the attainable standard of living. Blacks and some other racial/ethnic minorities carry a heavier burden of illness and injury than non-Hispanic whites. Reducing black-white health disparity, especially in the incidence of obesity and diabetes, through preventative interventions and more efficient medical care delivery can reduce both business and health care costs. Reducing such disparities is an achievable goal estimated to save North Carolinians $516 million annually--$290 million annually in direct and indirect costs for those who are employed and an additional $226 million for those not in the active labor force. Addressing racial disparities in health must be a core component of any strategy that seeks to enhance the state’s ability to compete, thrive, and prosper in the continually evolving global knowledge economy.

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Appold, Stephen J.
Johnson, James H., Jr.
Kasarda, John D.