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Recognizing Disparities in African American Health

February is Black History Month and while we celebrate the many outstanding achievements and triumphs within the African American community, it is also important to recognize that there exists many ethnic health disparities among communities of color, especially within the African American population. These disparities highlight the importance of improving our health care system to make comprehensive and accessible treatment available to everyone.

Here are the facts:

Health Coverage

  • A total of 16.6 percent of African American individuals ages 18+ do not have a regular source of healthcare.
  • Nearly half (46%) of non-elderly black adults who do not have health insurance report having one or more chronic health conditions.

Chronic Health Conditions

  • Nearly half of all African American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease.
  • About every two of five African American adults have high blood pressure, with less than half of them having it under control.
  • African Americans have higher rates of obesity than white individuals with 37% of men and 50% of women impacted by the disorder.
  • The highest prevalence of asthma occurs within the African American population.
  • Lack of early identification and treatment of cancer leads to higher incidence and mortality rates from many cancers and are responsive to treatment.
  • Mental health disorders including major depression, ADHD, suicide, and PTSD affect African Americans.

Mental Health Issues

  • Major depression
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Suicide, among young African American men
  • Postraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), because African American individuals are more likely to be victims of violent crime

Barriers to Treatment

  • Distrust, discrimination and lack of cultural competence within the health care system may influence why many people don't seek or stay in treatment
  • Socio-economic factors including the inability to afford health insurance, makes health care less available.
Sources: "MH Disparity Stats." Cenpatico Integrated Care, Tucson. Accessed Jan. 2017.