Chilling Report Reveals Truth About Real Factors That are Killing Us
“A goal of Healthy People 2010 was the “elimination” of health disparities. It was not achieved for African American people. The current picture is clear; the greatest health disparity between the total US population and any ethnic group is found in African Americans…” – K. Keppel, T. Garcia, S. Hallquist , A. Ryskulova, L. Agress – Authors of the Healthy People 2010 Report
Houston- After 250 years of social segregation and discrimination, current health data confirms that African Americans are the least healthy ethnic group in the United States, according to a stunning report revealing the state of Black Health in 2017.
The stunning report, Improving the health of African Americans in the USA: an overdue opportunity for social justice, published October 3, 2016 in Public Health Reviews by BioMed Central, reveals an extensive report that has not been taken too seriously and has all but been ignored, buried, hidden and overlooked in the Black community.
Authors Allan S. Noonan, Hector Eduardo Velasco-Mondragon and Fernando A. Wagner points to several clear and definitive reasons African American suffer great disadvantages when it comes to health and healthy living in our communities and improving quality of life in the community..
In 2014, African Americans numbered approximately 42.3 million, accounting for 13 % of the US population. About 55 % of them live in the Southern states.
It’s What We Believe & What We Don’t
Shocking is the statistic in the report is that only 30-percent of African Americans believe that their health is dependent upon fate or destiny and only about 50 -percent feel that health is a high priority.
Lack of Real Black Representation and Voice
According to the report, Blacks have not had a real serious voice at political, corporate and medical policy shaping tables.
“African Americans have not been in the fiscal nor political positions to assure the successful implementation of long-term efforts,” the report states. “The health of African Americans has not been a priority for decision makers.”
One of the main reasons for that is clear:
“that the policies of health practice and health institutions that serve African Americans are most often determined by public and private sector leaders who have no health training.”
Lower Life Expectancy
According to The Centers for Disease Control, Blacks had the highest age-adjusted death rate of any ethnic group in 2013 or (1083.3 per 100,000 standard population for black males compared to 876.8 100,000 for white males, the second highest).
In the USA, from 1980 to 2014, life expectancy at birth increased from 70.0 to 78.8; 76.4 years for males and 81.2 years for females.
Life expectancy at birth for blacks is 75.2 years; 72 years for males and 78.1 years for females.
Fighting African-American Health Demons
Over recent decades, four main causes of morbidity threaten African Americans and stand out as health problems: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and homicide.
Of those, heart disease is the leading cause of death for most Americans.
About 46 % of African Americans older than 19 years of age suffer from cardiovascular disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke currently are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, current smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity.
Of those listed, African American women had the highest prevalence of obesity during this period, and African Americans have had the highest rates of diabetes since the data have been collected.
However, these causes of death may be the most visible health problems for African Americans, but they do not tell the whole story.
Mental illness also is the second largest cause of death in African Americans, and not far behind is violence in the form of homicide. It is the greatest cause of preventable death.
Also contributing to the poor state of African-American health are the high levels of poverty, the lack of education, and excess incarceration further compound the poor health of African Americans.
Some of the most prominent health issues among Black men and women include breast cancer among Black women and prostate cancer for African American males.
In 2011, African American women also reported higher rates of experiencing rape and physical violence and in 2013, higher rates of aggravated assault, child maltreatment, and fights were reported among high school students.
Black Health History Uncovered
The study further reveals that much of our current 2017 health dilemma can be linked back to our poor health care past.
According to report research, the first African Americans were brought to the United States in chains as slaves and those transports from Africa to the New World remains one of the best examples of the ability of “one sector of humanity to destroy the health of another.”
Once enslaved, African Americans were forced to live in physical and social conditions in which their health had very little value and for more than 250 years, enslaved African Americans suffered physical, social, and mental brutalization.
The end of slavery did not mean that African Americans could suddenly lead healthful lives.
Since emancipation, Blacks have been subjected to a “systematic discrimination and oppression for the 150 years since slavery was abolished, and it continues nowadays.”
Healthwise, this history may be viewed as resulting in two outcomes.
“With so much suffering and early death, those who survived this subjection may be the strongest and most resilient members of this group.,” the study said. “However, the history of slavery and the current racial discrimination this group continues to suffer clearly underlie the inexcusably poor health status of African Americans as a whole.”
In 1984, Margaret Heckler, then Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), dissatisfied with the way health disparities were being reported to Congress, provided the first comprehensive review of health disparities endured by black and minority groups, compared with whites; the report laid the foundations for action to eliminate these disparities through health education, promotion, and access to health care.
One of the most significant outcomes of the 1985 Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health, also known as the Heckler Report, was the creation of the Office of Minority Health in 1986, with the mission “to improve the health or racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities.
Thirty years after the Heckler Report, African Americans still endure unacceptable health disparities and lack the power over policy and actions that could make the changes to eliminate such disparities.
“The fact that the African American population is the least healthy ethnic group in the USA is not due to chance.” Keppel, Garcia, Hallquist , Ryskulova, Agress.
Key Factors Feeding Health Care Attitudes in Black Community
The study reveals key factors that affect the overall health care attitude of the community.
Improving the health of African Americans is linked to improving the conditions and overall attitudes about our neighborhoods and our living environments.
According to U.S. Census Bureau income and poverty data, poverty is highly linked to poor health outcomes and increases in death and mortality.
Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, elevated blood lead levels, and low birth weights are all prevalent among the poor and linked to African-American education and attitudes about health.
Poverty and lacking basic human essentials including adequate clean water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing, and shelter are big factors in shaping proper health care attitudes.
African Americans are the poorest ethnic group in the USA.
They have had the lowest median household income in the USA for the past 50 years: in 2014, measured at $35,398, compared to $53,657 for all races, and $74,297 for Asians
Transportation is often a problem in poor communities, presenting obstacles to accessing health care facilities and medical and pharmacy services, especially for emergencies and preventive care.
Access to healthy foods is also a frequent problem in poor African American communities.
“Food deserts” describe neighborhoods without easy access to supermarkets that sell fresh produce and other healthy foods.
Black neighborhoods have significantly fewer supermarkets than white ones. Several studies also document that the food that is available in poor black neighborhoods is less fresh and of lower quality. In contrast, alcohol outlets are much more numerous in black neighborhoods. It is not surprising that rates of obesity and diabetes are highest in poor black neighborhoods
Violence is also a major determinant of health disparities. It is a major cause of injury, disability, and premature death. Black male adolescents are six times more likely than whites to die of homicide.
In 2009, black males accounted for 60 % of injuries due to firearms compared to 8 % for whites.
In 2014, African Americans accounted for 13 % of the US population but over 57 % of the victims of homicide by firearm.
Firearm homicide was the leading cause of death for African American males ages 15–34, and the third leading cause of death for Latino males in the same age group (and would be second if combined with suicides in which firearms were used).
The impact of incarceration on the family is devastating. One of every 15 black children has an incarcerated parent, compared to one of every 110 white children. Research has shown that children of incarcerated parents are six times more likely to be incarcerated themselves during their lifetimes.
The study connects the dots on Black health with the following statement, “Socially, racism is correlated with substandard employment, housing, education, income, and access to health services; associated risks include occupational hazards, exposures to toxic substances and allergens in the home, low-quality schooling, lack of availability of healthy foods, easy access to illicit drugs and alcohol, violent neighborhoods, and environmental exposures.”
Lack of Health Literacy and Black Health Workforce
An educated and informed black population will use health care services more effectively.
* Better Health Literacy
About 40-percent of African Americans have limited reading skills [. Health literacy is one’s ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services.
This skill is necessary to make appropriate health decisions. Good health literacy requires the reading, analysis, and decision-making skills to make appropriate health decisions.
Lack of health literacy skills is considered a cause of health disparities, and disparities by both race and educational status when health literacy are taken into account .
People with poor health literacy have problems communicating with their health providers, reading instructions on medicines, and completing medical and insurance forms.
*Increase Black Health Profession Pools
A review of occupations in the study shows that Blacks are not filling key professional medical occupations – another reason for the lax of emphasis on Black health.
For example, as of 2012, Blacks were 13.6 % of the “working age population” but were not 13 % of any of the major health professions.
Currently, only 5.3 % of active physicians are Black, and that is true for 10 % of Nurses are African-American.
Oral health remains a major issue for African Americans, but only 3 % of Dentists are Black.
On clinical providers, only 5.2 % of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), 8 % of Physician Assistants (PA), and 5 % of Pharmacists are Black; and only 4 % of occupational therapists and speech therapists are African American.
HBCU’s Must Step Up/Promote Health Training
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been a major educational resource for African Americans since the end of slavery almost 150 years ago.
The primary mission of HBCUs is to educate black Americans. There are currently 100 HBCUs, and about 30 % of the BA degrees awarded to African Americans annually are produced by the 89 4-year HBCUs.
Facing the increasing need for health professionals, there has been a significant expansion of health training programs across the USA. It is stunning to see that health programs in HBCUs have not shared in this growth, according to the report.
In 1976–1977, HBCUs awarded 35 % of the bachelor’s degrees to blacks in the USA . This figure dropped to 16 % in 2010–2011.
In 2007, education statistics show that only 5 % of full-time faculty members at higher education institutions were black.
In 2011, non-black students only made up 19 % of enrollment at HBCUs and in 2013, only 60 % of nurses trained in HBCUs were African American.
The Take Away
One of the most important findings in the report is that Black individuals and community involvement in our own health care policy making and policy shaping is necessary before African-American see changes across the board.
Also, it is the responsibility of trained health professionals, especially African-American health leaders to provide the best information needed to make appropriate health policy decisions for African-American and follow up with serious evaluations of programs in their implementation.
To read and review the full report visit the website at:
By: Darwin Campbell, Senior Journalist