Ethnic minority groups represented in the United States may experience various inequalities due to structural racism. Its consequences can affect many life aspects, including the health status of the representatives of specific minorities. Much research on the subject shows how people’s health and lives are affected due to racial inequality, and many people attempt to change the situation. However, there are still many differences in the general health status of ethnic groups compared to the national average. This paper analyzes the health status of African Americans and the associated challenges that the representatives of this ethnic minority may face due to their racial attributes. The general health status of African Americans is significantly lower than the national average due to many reasons, making them more vulnerable to various diseases.
Current Health Status of the Minority
The main reason for the inequality between African Americans and other citizens of the United States is structural racism. This phenomenon divides people into the dominant and non-dominant groups, and the latter group has limited access to many essential resources, including wealth, employment, income, and healthcare (Yearby, 2018). These limitations make the representatives of the non-dominant groups suffer from various issues, including the ones related to their health. For instance, the current health status of African Americans is characterized by low life expectancy and high susceptibility to severe diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (Yearby, 2018). Having limited access to the healthcare system, the representatives of the ethnic minority may struggle with curing critical conditions and prolonging their lives.
Limitations related to wealth, employment, and income also bring some severe issues to the health status of African Americans. They often do not have well-paid jobs, meaning that many cannot afford to pay for health insurance (Yearby, 2018). Recent research shows that more than 25% of African Americans are below the poverty rate, and it can be difficult for them to spend money on healthcare (Yearby, 2018). Moreover, there is persistent racial discrimination in the modern healthcare system, and there are many reports that a patient’s race may affect a physician’s decision (Yearby, 2018). 32% of African Americans say they have personal experience being discriminated against in health clinics (Yearby, 2018). As a result, 22% of black Americans avoid healthcare at large since they do not want to confront structural racism while attending to their health issues and conditions (Yearby, 2018). The described problems negatively affect African Americans, significantly reducing the general health status of the minority.
Nutritional Challenges for African Americans
A major amount of the ethnic group’s health issues is related to food and the corresponding nutritional challenges. Yearby (2018) reports that racial segregation of the neighborhoods severely affects the quality of food people can buy. The main reason is “a lack of supermarkets and a preponderance of convenience stores and fast-food restaurants as the primary food outlets” (as cited in Yearby, 2018, p. 1118). Poor food choices in the racially segregated neighborhoods leave people living there with no other option than to eat what is available for buying. Researchers claim that the nutritional quality of the food in those areas often leads to obesity, which is a vital risk factor for severe illnesses, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease (Yearby, 2018). Since African Americans mostly live in racially segregated neighborhoods, the corresponding nutritional challenges contribute to the minority’s health status.
Health Promotion Activities Practiced by African Americans
Many people who recognize the problem with the health status of African Americans and other ethnic minority groups attempt to make a difference. For example, the Society of Black Academic Surgeons (SBAS), assembled more than 30 years ago, encourages the participation of surgeons and scientists, who represent ethnic minorities, in academic surgery (Joseph et al., 2018). The Society also studies different forms of violence and their impact on the health status of African Americans. SBAS uses its research to provide law-related recommendations and potential strategies for reducing the exposure to violence among representatives of ethnic minorities (Joseph et al., 2018). Following those recommendations and creating more communities similar to SBAS seems like an efficient way to increase the health status of African Americans.
Health Prevention: Community-based Approach
It is essential to consider the unique needs of an ethnic minority group when creating a care plan with preventive health measures. The community-based approach seems to be the most effective for African Americans as it focuses the prevention measures on a specific part of the society based on the individual needs of its representatives. On the primary level, it is essential to provide African Americans, especially those living in racially segregated neighborhoods, with access to stores offering healthy food options (Kisling, 2020). On the secondary level, African Americans should be encouraged and provided with required resources for clinical procedures, such as mammography, colonoscopies, and blood pressure screening for the early detection of severe diseases (Kisling, 2020). Finally, on the tertiary level, African Americans should receive required therapy if they have medical conditions that have not been detected in time due to the consequences of structural racism (Kisling, 2020). The community-based approach can promptly identify health issues in the ethnic group of African Americans and increase their health status.
Cultural Beliefs of African Americans
The cultural features of African Americans make it challenging to create an efficient care plan as the representatives of the ethnic group can be distrustful due to their historical background. Kelly (2019) claims that this distrust can be “associated with an unwillingness to seek mental health services, negative attitudes toward White therapists, and premature termination rates” (p. 106). Black Americans may also “ignore a therapist’s academic degrees and suggestions until they are sure of the feeling of “vibes” they get from the therapist” (as cited in Kelly, 2019, p. 107). However, the culture of this minority group is also associated with many strengths and supportive behavior, meaning that the theory of cultural strength would be best to support culturally competent health promotion. Kelly (2019) suggests that the cultural strengths of African Americans can offset the historical consequences of structural racism and discrimination. Therefore, solid cultural elements of this ethnic minority group can help increase their health status.
Overall, African Americans’ health status is inferior to the national average, which is why the representatives of this ethnic group are more susceptible to severe illnesses. The main reason is the minority’s limited access to wealth, employment, income, and healthcare. Many African Americans cannot afford appropriate healthcare, and some of them even avoid seeking medical aid to avoid being discriminated against by physicians and clinical workers. In addition, racial segregation of the neighborhoods brings significant nutritional challenges to the health status of African Americans as they often do not have healthy food options. However, the negative consequences can be averted as many people recognize the problem and seek potential solutions. There is an opportunity to use a community-based approach to create an efficient care plan to consider the minority’s unique needs and use their cultural strengths. Such a plan can help African Americans to improve their general health status.
Joseph, K., Turner, P., Barry, L., Cooper, C., Danner, O., Enumah, S., Hayanga, A., James, I., Oppong, B., Gibson, C. Q., Stanford, A., Thomas, Y., Weaver, W. L., Williams, M., Young, C., & Britt, L. D. (2018). Reducing the impact of violence on the health status of African-Americans: Literature review and recommendations from the society of black academic surgeons. The American Journal of Surgery, 216(3), 393-400. Web.
Kelly, S. (2019). Cognitive behavior therapy with African Americans. In G. Y. Iwamasa & P. A. Hays (Eds.), Culturally responsive cognitive behavior therapy: Practice and supervision (pp. 105–128). American Psychological Association.
Kisling, L. A., & Das, J. M. (2020). Prevention strategies. StatPearls Publishing.
Yearby, R. (2018). Racial disparities in health status and access to healthcare: The continuation of inequality in the United States due to structural racism. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 77(3-4), 1113-1152. Web.