The more I study health, the more I realize that place and race play a significant role in the health of specific populations. With Martin Luther King day being observed this week it seemed appropriate to share some resources and take a look at some health disparities that exist within the African American population.
Recognizing the need for clarity, Healthy People 2020 defined a health disparity as: “. . . a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with economic, social, or environmental disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social or economic obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, or mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.”
Health disparities between African Americans and other racial and ethnic populations are striking and apparent in life expectancy, death rates, infant mortality, and other measures of health status and risk conditions and behaviors.
Some disparities of note include:
- African Americans in 2009 had the largest death rates from heart disease and stroke
- The prevalence of obesity among adults from 2007-2010 was largest among African American women compared with white and Mexican American women and men.
- In 2010, the prevalence of diabetes among African American adults was nearly twice as large as the prevalence among white adults
- Infants of African American women in 2008 had the largest death rate, which was more than twice the rate among infants of white women.
- African Americans in 2009 had the largest death rates from homicide among all racial and ethnic populations. Rates among African American males were the largest across all age groups.
- African American adults in 2010 had the largest HIV infection rate compared with rates among adults of other racial and ethnic populations.
- In 2010, a larger percentage of Hispanic and African American adults aged 18-64 years were without health insurance compared with white and Asian/Pacific Islander counterparts.
- Additionally, African Americans are less likely to have completed high school, are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to live below the poverty line, and have a shorter life span compared to white adults.
Considering the role of race in health with your students allows you to address NHES
Standard 1 – Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.
Standard 2 – Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors.
And because we should encourage our students to advocate for those less health literate than themselves,
Standard 8 – Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family, and community health.
Discussions about race in the classroom can be uncomfortable, and it can be easier for teachers to turn a blind eye and encourage color-blindness. However, there will come a time when our students will need to address the issue of race, and the more these discussions take place, the easier and more effective they will become. For this reason, Mellody Hobson, in this thought-provoking TED talk encourages us to become ‘color brave’.
In a field where roughly 80 percent of teachers are white and more than 40 percent of students are students of color, I know that it is important for me to be a reflective participant in the discussion on race and racism in education and in my subject area of health education. I encourage you to do the same. You’ll probably experience discomfort, and it’s ok to expect, and accept, non-closure, but it’s a lot better than not having the discussion in the first place.
Here are this week’s #slowchathealth questions:
Q1 What effect do race and place have on the health of your students? #slowchathealth
Q2 Is there a place in your #healthed classroom for discussions on race? How often do these occur? #slowchathealth
Q3 How do you help your students understand the external factors that influence their health? #slowchathealth
Q4 Watch, and comment on Mellody Hobson’s TED Talk. #slowchathealth
Q5 Which accounts do you follow on Twitter that help you understand health disparities? #slowchathealth