While people’s health is one of the essential parts of their lives, not everybody has equal access to healthcare services. Several minority groups living in the United States encounter a number of barriers to care that result in health disparities between the group and the rest of the nation (CDC, 2016). For example, while African Americans’ health status has changed significantly over the years, they still have problems that are specific to their minority group. This paper aims to analyze the health status of the African American population and examine the group’s barriers to health, health disparities, health promotion, and possible prevention strategies.
Current Health Status and Comparison
The number of African Americans living in the US takes up about 14 percent of the total population (SAMHSA, 2018). Over the past years, the rate of deaths for older African Americans “has declined about 25%” (CDC, 2017, para. 1). This improvement, however, is overshadowed by the fact that many young African Americans are living with conditions that are more common in older white people. For example, high blood pressure is among the issues that Black Americans encounter more often than white Americans (CDC, 2017). Other health status disparities include higher prevalence of people having diabetes, stroke, and obesity in Black communities.
Compared to the national average, the rate of drug use among African Americans is higher – 12.4%compared to 10.2% (SAMHSA, 2018, para. 6). The rates of binge drinking, however, are low – 21.6% for Black people and 23% for the national average (SAMHSA, 2018, para. 7). Moreover, alcohol use among African American adolescents and young adults is significantly lower than the average. The rates of people with mental illnesses are also lower than the overall national statistics. As was mentioned above, many Black Americans suffer from serious diseases, which become the major causes of death for the population. African Americans also have higher rates of HIV infection (SAMHSA, 2018).
Barriers to Health and Health Disparities
One of the main health barriers for African Americans is based on financial disparities. The socioeconomic status of this minority group greatly affects its members’ health, as Black people often cannot afford access to healthcare, especially primary care (Arnett, Thorpe, Gaskin, Bowie, & LaVeist, 2016). Thus, they mostly engage with emergency care services and outpatient facilities (Arnett et al., 2016). Lower income and less favorable living conditions are among the most serious barriers to care for Black people. Lower household incomes and the inability to afford insurance also expose African Americans to a higher rate of untreated health-related issues (Arnett et al., 2016).
Financial limitations lead to many adverse effects on individuals’ health such as unhealthy lifestyle, poor nutrition choices, and lack of diagnostic, preventive care. Another possible disparity lies in higher rates of medical mistrust among African Americans (Arnett et al., 2016). This phenomenon may be explained by the lack of medical education and physical remoteness from medical facilities which leads to peoples’ misunderstanding of healthcare services.
Influences on Health
Lower socioeconomic status and the lack of education can significantly affect people’s approach to their health. For example, as many African Americans interact with preventive care less than emergency care services, their use of preventive medicine is lower as well (Arnett et al., 2016). Therefore, this population often cannot be reached by healthcare interventions that decrease the rates of conditions developing in the early stage.
The physical remoteness of some neighborhoods from medical facilities also presents a problem that deprives many people from accessing healthcare. Financial limitations further impact people’s health. Moreover, people with lower incomes are often exposed to making unhealthy eating choices and having no time for physical activity. Thus, access to healthy food such as fresh fruit and vegetables is limited for some members of this population (CDC, 2017).
Health Promotion and Prevention Approach
As many people are unable to assess primary care, preventive health promotions strategies may be harder to implement in the minority group. Moreover, the significance of health promotion in the community may also be overlooked. According to Odulana et al. (2014), faith can play a significant role in health promotion. As many African Americans are religious and may visit churches on a regular basis, collaborating with churches and faith-based organizations may be an effective strategy for health promotion interventions (CDC, 2017; Odulana et al., 2014). Community organizations can educate individuals and reach out to them in order to lower the rates of medical mistrust.
This intervention may be helpful for people who do not possess enough knowledge about preventive care because of the unfamiliarity with primary care services. Furthermore, the approach uses community organizations that have a strong relationship with the population, which can positively impact the outcomes of the strategy’s implementation.
African Americans have a number of barriers to health, the most significant of which is their socioeconomic status. The lack of access to preventive care leads to conditions being untreated for long periods of time and people not trusting medical professionals. One of the possible interventions that can address these barriers is the collaboration of medical specialists with faith and community organizations that can connect with the minority group’s members and address the most pressing issues. They can also promote healthy eating habits, timely diagnostics, patient-healthcare provider trust, and health education.
Arnett, M. J., Thorpe, R. J., Gaskin, D. J., Bowie, J. V., & LaVeist, T. A. (2016). Race, medical mistrust, and segregation in primary care as usual source of care: Findings from the exploring health disparities in integrated communities study. Journal of Urban Health, 93(3), 456-467.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2016). Racial and ethnic approaches to community health (REACH). Web.
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Odulana, A. A., Kim, M. M., Isler, M. R., Green, M. A., Taylor, Y. J., Howard, D. L.,… Corbie-Smith, G. (2014). Examining characteristics of congregation members willing to attend health promotion in African American churches. Health Promotion Practice, 15(1), 125-133.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA]. (2018). Racial and ethnic minority populations. Web.