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Health Disparaties within the African American Community

Health disparities among different racial and ethnic groups have been a longstanding concern in the United States (U.S.). To be more specific, African American communities have endured centuries of health disparities, violence, racial injustice, etc. African Americans in the United States face higher rates of mortality compared to other racial and ethnic groups due to a combination of various factors, including socioeconomic disparities, healthcare access issues, and systemic racism. Despite advances in medical technology and increased access to healthcare, people of color continue to experience significant disparities which results in poor health outcomes. The purpose of this article is to not only educate readers but to bring awareness to these issues that are barely given any thought. It is to delve into the health disparities faced by African American communities in the U.S.

Systemic racism and racial bias within the healthcare system can lead to disparities in the quality of care provided to African American individuals. Implicit biases among healthcare providers can result in diagnostic and treatment disparities, contributing to poorer health outcomes and increased mortality rates among African American patients. Chronic exposure to discrimination, racial prejudice, and socioeconomic stressors can lead to adverse health effects. The cumulative impact of stress on physical and mental health can contribute to higher mortality rates among African American individuals.

One striking disparity that immensely affects the African American community is the mortality rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2021), African Americans have higher mortality rates compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Research has shown that African Americans experience higher mortality rates from conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes (Williams, 2020). These disparities in mortality rates highlight the urgent need for targeted interventions to improve the health outcomes of African American communities. Furthermore, African American people have higher rates of chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. These health disparities may be influenced by a range of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and social determinants of health (Ananian et al, 2018). Chronic diseases also pose a significant burden on African American communities. The CDC (2021) reports that African Americans have higher rates of chronic diseases, including hypertension, obesity, and asthma, compared to their white counterparts. Socioeconomic factors play a crucial role in these disparities. Limited access to healthcare and healthy food options exacerbates the burden of chronic diseases in African American communities (Williams, 2020). Moreover, African American individuals may face barriers in accessing quality healthcare services, including a lack of health insurance coverage, limited availability of healthcare providers in their communities, and transportation challenges. These barriers can lead to delayed or inadequate healthcare, resulting in higher mortality rates. It is clear that addressing the socioeconomic determinants of health is essential for reducing health disparities.

Other socioeconomic factors, such as poverty, unemployment, and limited educational opportunities, play a significant role in shaping health outcomes (Braveman et al., 2020). The lack of access to quality healthcare, insurance coverage, and transportation further exacerbates these disparities (CDC, 2021). Moreover, systemic racism and racial bias within healthcare systems contribute to disparities in treatment and access to care for African Americans (Williams, 2020). Studies have shown that African Americans often receive lower-quality care compared to their white counterparts, leading to worse health outcomes (Braveman et al., 2020). Addressing health disparities requires a multifaceted approach involving policy interventions, community empowerment, and changes within the healthcare system. Government policies should focus on reducing poverty, improving education, and increasing access to affordable healthcare for African American communities (Braveman et al., 2020). Expanding Medicaid coverage and implementing targeted health initiatives can play a crucial role in reducing disparities (CDC, 2021).

Not only do African American communities face health disparities and racial discrimination but they also face environmental challenges such as exposure to pollution, inadequate access to healthy food options, and unsafe living conditions. These environmental factors can contribute to health disparities and increased mortality rates. African American communities often face a higher likelihood of living in close proximity to environmental hazards such as toxic waste sites, industrial facilities, and polluting industries. This phenomenon, known as environmental racism, results from discriminatory practices in land use planning and zoning decisions that disproportionately burden minority communities with environmental risks. African American communities are more likely to be exposed to high levels of air pollution and contaminated water sources. Factors such as proximity to highways, industrial areas, and power plants contribute to higher levels of air pollution, which can lead to respiratory problems and other adverse health effects. Similarly, inadequate infrastructure and aging water systems can result in higher levels of lead and other contaminants in drinking water. Climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable communities, including African American populations. Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, heatwaves, and flooding, can have severe consequences for African American communities, who may have limited resources and infrastructure to cope with these events. Climate change also exacerbates existing health disparities and can lead to increased rates of infectious diseases, heat-related illnesses, and mental health issues.

Community-based organizations and grassroots initiatives have the potential to make a significant impact by providing education, outreach, and support to African American communities (Williams, 2020). Culturally competent care and community engagement strategies can help build trust and improve healthcare experiences (Braveman et al., 2020). By empowering communities and involving them in decision-making processes, we can develop strategies that are tailored to the specific needs of African American populations.

Furthermore, healthcare providers and institutions must take proactive steps to address racial disparities. This includes implementing anti-racist policies, providing diversity training, and ensuring equitable allocation of resources within healthcare systems (CDC, 2021). Promoting diversity in the healthcare workforce can enhance cultural competency and reduce implicit bias, thereby improving the quality of care provided to African American patients (Williams, 2020).

In summation, the persistence of health disparities within African American communities in the United States represents a salient matter of public health importance. Multifaceted elements including socioeconomic status, discriminatory practices, and racial bias collectively contribute to the perpetuation of these inequities. Effectively redressing health disparities necessitates a comprehensive approach encompassing policy interventions, community empowerment initiatives, and transformative reforms within the healthcare system. It is only through the strategic implementation of tailored strategies and the cultivation of equitable frameworks that we can embark on a trajectory toward genuine progress and endeavor to ameliorate the prevailing challenges faced by African American communities.

Work Cited:

  1. Der Ananian, C., Winham, D. M., Thompson, S. V., & Tisue, M. E. (2018). Perceptions of Heart-Healthy Behaviors among African American Adults: A Mixed Methods Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(11), 2433.

  2. Hall, W. J., Chapman, M. V., Lee, K. M., Merino, Y. M., Thomas, T. W., Payne, B. K., Eng, E., Day, S. H., & Coyne-Beasley, T. (2015). Implicit Racial/Ethnic Bias Among Health Care Professionals and Its Influence on Health Care Outcomes: A Systematic Review. American journal of public health, 105(12), e60–e76.

  3. Snowden, L. R., & Snowden, J. M. (2021). Coronavirus Trauma and African Americans' Mental Health: Seizing Opportunities for Transformational Change. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(7), 3568.

  4. Hall, W. J., Chapman, M. V., Lee, K. M., Merino, Y. M., Thomas, T. W., Payne, B. K., Eng, E., Day, S. H., & Coyne-Beasley, T. (2015). Implicit Racial/Ethnic Bias Among Health Care Professionals and Its Influence on Health Care Outcomes: A Systematic Review. American journal of public health, 105(12), e60–e76.




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