A college professor once told me a relationship between crime and infant mortality doesn’t exist. At the time, I heeded his logic because I needed to complete the paper. Now, in retrospect, I beg to differ.
Each day I hear about a black man, woman, or child losing his or her life due to violence, disease, or injury. Although these aren’t all attributable to crime, there a growing awareness in the public health field that being black is a risk factor for poor health outcomes. Consider this, blacks have a shorter life expectancy and higher morbidity and mortality rates than most other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.
Public health officials have known for decades that the state of black health is an alarming public health concern with relatively few community-based programs yielding reducing the black health risk. Poor health outcomes for blacks are not exclusively associated with class status. For instance, college educated black women face higher levels of infant mortality that white women with less than a high school education. In fact, the disparity gap remains despite income, education level, or insurance status.
Many doubt the importance of race as well as the use of race in determining health policies, reporting health data, or developing community health agendas. But, something is truly wrong when there are more than 8,000 excess black deaths occurring each year. These deaths are unfortunate and often preventable.
Although the U.S. spends billions to close the gap, relatively little improvement has been made and in some instances, the gap has widened. In other words, researchers, administrators, and public health officials are getting paid to develop and implement programs, but the end result are ineffective programs, dismal outcome improvements, and salaries to people (mostly outside of the target populations) paid.
I admit that finding the solution is not clear and simple; but, it will take acknowledgement of the fact that individual behaviors must change but public health and the health care system must also change. To truly make a difference, policies and programs must be directed towards shifting cultural views, norms, and practices. This includes intergenerational information that shapes what people eat, how they cook, how they socialize, how they access health care, how they share health information, how they care for the young, and how they see themselves as part of society.
Tough tasks, but they must be done.
We start with stress and the impact racism plays on the health of people. People fail to consider the pervasiveness of daily micro aggressions. A great number of folks do not realize that a vast number of blacks lack the income to seek therapy and other forms of medication to cope with such grind. Further, we lack the parks and the disposable income to join clubs that benefit both our physical and mental health. I have seen this first hand growing up. I see it in my own family.
Thanks for your comment. I concur with everything you stated. In many cities across the country, we have started working on initiatives to build healthy communities. However, it’s typically people from the outside with grant funds. When the grant funds run out, so do they. This further exacerbates the problem. The other thing is that we have to raise the level of accountability we have for one another. There is the phenomena that I call “trickling up.” In that some of us are allowed to increase our socioeconomic standing but when we do, we assimilate and forget about the common cause of reaching back and helping others. This is something very common in immigrant populations but then again, we aren’t immigrants in the technical sense of the word.
As a former nurse I have come to believe that diet and environment are the root causes for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and liver failure; which affect America’s black population at a proportionately higher rate than white Americans.
Fried foods, fatback, lard, salt, pork skins, Schlitz Malt Liquor, Ripple, Thunderbird, MD 20/20, Kools, etc. are contributing factors. Coupled with cultural fatalism — thinking, “It is God’s will,” or “My family had it so I have it,” or no sense urgency believing, “It is not something I can have an impact on so it won’t hurt me,” it often makes it difficult to treat people effectively because the disease process has advanced to its later stages.
Eating habits, social and cultural issues obviously are affecting the health of black Americans and hopefully, those who comprehend the ramifications of such will become proactive in helping others to change negative behaviors and mindsets.
Yes, you are correct. Behavioral issues play a large part in health outcomes. Getting people to change their behaviors is a monumental task, especially when communities are proliferated with fast food restaurants and limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Hmmm…where do we start to make a big impact?
I have always thought that the change we are looking for needs to at first start with us. Like the previous comment stated, once one rises, we should all look back and raise each other up. I think we have to start looking at caring for each other. While its easier said than done it is always possible. As a fresh new parent to a baby girl, I have encountered new thoughts and perspectives that I otherwise may not. It hurts to know with all the violence, deaths, health issues, and stress factors that complicates everyday living, it will affect my daughter and the people that she grows close to. And furthermore it really is a shame that it has taken myself so long to look at these issues and be apart of the solution and not the problem. Great Post.
this is such a great and insightful article! thank you for sharing this! the issues you raised are important for EVERYONE to know about and EVERYONE to work towards resolving. keep up the great work! ~The TJ Blog
This post reminded me of some of the topics my professor covered in my public health class. At the end of the semester we had to do a paper and poster on a specific health issue in a specific community. Some of these included STD rates, infant mortality, diabetes, heart disease, etc. One thing I noticed with the majority of those health issues is that rates are almost always higher among African-Americans and Hispanics. This raises a couple of question in my mind.. WHY? Is it because of all the disparities? How do we go about fixing this issue?
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I couldn’t agree with you more! I knew it was an issue, but I did not realize how big the issue was, until I took the public health class. Black lives are more at risk than any race, despite of level of education. Health official from my understanding is still looking into what is the cause. Hopefully finding a solution will aid in the lost lives.
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As a minority I sympathize with everyone who has suffered from this. Reading your blog made me realize that stigmatization plays a big role here. I believe health risks are not the only things associated with being black (or belonging to other minorities). I have been treated unfairly at the doctor’s office, at school conferences, and even at the convenience store, for the simple fact of being a Mexican girl with brown skin. The saddest part is that sometimes people of our own background or race/ethnicity treat us differently by the way we present ourselves. You are right about society needing to change individual behavior because only then will we all treat each other equal and be treated equal.
This is the unfortunate part, we all have stories. We are at a point where we should no longer seek to convince people these things exists, but to plot a path towards addressing and correcting them.