Health Disparities in the United States

The United States of America is a diverse country comprised of different races and ethnicities. The country has experienced decades of systemic inequalities that affect the distribution of service delivery to all the people. The health sector is one of the many fields where a part of citizens is marginally underserved, leading to disproportionate medical coverage, mortality rates, mental health cases, chronic conditions. This report explores African Americans/Black Americans’ health status by comparing it to the national average. Black Americans indicate an individual with part or total descent from Black racial groups from Caribbean or African countries. Black people in the US represent only 13% of the total population (Starr et al., 2021). The statistics explored in this paper show black people are overwhelmingly affected by health issues than the other races even though they only represent a small percentage of the total population.

In the US, race and ethnicity play a significant role in how people are treated in society. Compared to the white people, African Americans live in abject poverty, high unemployment, and are at higher risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, influenza and pneumonia, stroke, HIV/AIDS, and asthma (Pfizer, 2020). Black people start experiencing these conditions from a younger age, which means they start developing health complications commonly present during older age for other races. As a result, Black Americans die at a younger age than the national average.

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Many issues contribute to health inequalities amongst Black Americans. First, educational attainment data shows only 86.0% of African Americans aged 25 and above have attained at least a high school diploma level, while 21.4 % have a bachelor’s degree or higher (Office of Minority Health [OMH], 2019). In contrast, 92.9% of non-Hispanic whites with a high school diploma, and 35.8% are degree holders. Lack of educational achievements negatively affects the chances of Black people getting skills necessary for well-paying jobs. The average median household income in Black families is $40,165 compared to $65, 845 for non-Hispanic whites (OMH, 2019). The unemployment rate is also twice as high for the Black people than non-Hispanic whites. Consequently, African Americans cannot afford insurance coverage, good diet and nutrition, hospital charges, and other basic amenities accessible to the majority in the US. A study by Richards Adams et al. (2019) argued that African Americans have the lowest nutrition quality for all races in the United States. This is contributed by the high barriers to healthy eating such as low income, lack of nutrition education, and social support.

Health issues do not entirely reflect the failure of the health care system because people have a responsibility to engage in the preventative practice. Individuals are often encouraged to lead an active life, including physical exercise important in boosting cardiovascular health. For instance, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends at least two hours and thirty minutes of aerobic activities twice a week, which only 17.3% of African American adults meet this requirement (Eastland & Hardy, 2016). In contrast, 22.8% of white adults heed the CDC guideline on physical activity. Additionally, a person should conduct regular health check-ups, which helps in the early detection facilitating effective treatment and managing illnesses. Screening is crucial among Black people because one in two and one in three African American men and women, respectively, are diagnosed with cancer (Eastland & Hardy, 2016). Cancer detection enables early treatment and improves the quality of life.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary preventative stages used in combination are essential in reducing risks and complications associated with diseases. As noted, African Americans of all ages are disproportionately affected by many health issues compared to other races, and using medical behavioral change to inspire awareness. Therefore, primary prevention under this approach can incorporate measures aimed at preventing a disease from occurring (Kisling & Das, 2019). Some examples appropriate for Black people include regular physical exercises, vaccines, and improved diet quality. Such interventions could help in reducing and controlling obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer. The secondary phase is concerned with early detection, which emphasizes healthy individuals attend screenings (Kisling & Das, 2019). For instance, Pap smear could help in early diagnosis of cervical cancer. Finally, tertiary prevention could benefit African Americans already living with underlying conditions. In this case, rehabilitation centers, disease management, and support groups are possible helpful intervention measures.

Ineffective health care interventions are contributed by the lack of diversity in hospital leadership and primary care physicians. Culturally insensitive medical professionals offer limited treatment options consistent with the patient’s belief. As a result, there is a need for culturally sensitive health promotion programs, including educating Black medical practitioners. Faith-based organizations such as churches can play a crucial role in bridging the cultural gap in health care (Holt et al., 2017). Historically, African American pastors have participated in enlightening congregants in different social and political aspects, and they can offer a deeper insight into public health. Churches could organize screening, education, and health fairs to enhance awareness of health issues affecting Black people. Such programs would be based on social cognitive theory (SCT), which incorporates individual experiences, other people’s actions, and environmental influence on health behaviors (Beauchamp et al., 2019). The church SCT-based intervention could help Black Americans with skill-building exercises to raise personal independence, instill health behaviors like physical workouts, quality diet, and attend regular health checkups. The choice for faith-based intervention is influenced by the strong religious background of the African Americans, who 83% indicate they attend church services (PEW, 2020). Using the church could lead to a wider outreach and be more efficient in improving healthcare awareness.

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In conclusion, this paper indicates some of the existing disparities in health care and disproportionate impacts on African Americans. There are many socio-economic barriers such as education, unemployment, insurance coverage, culturally insensitive physicians, and poor diet quality, which lowers Black people’s ability to seek medical care. Some interventions to solve this health problem include working with faith-based organizations to increase disease awareness and prevention strategies. The existing institutional disparities in the United States are African Americans, who face disproportionate health issues.

References

Beauchamp, M. R., Crawford, K. L., & Jackson, B. (2019). Social cognitive theory and physical activity: Mechanisms of behavior change, critique, and legacy. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 42, 110-117. Web.

Eastland, T. Y., & Hardy, E. C. (2016). Facilitators and barriers to health promotion in African-American adults: A qualitative systematic review protocol. JBI Evidence Synthesis, 14(7), 84-90. Web.

Holt, C. L., Graham-Phillips, A. L., Mullins, C. D., Slade, J. L., Savoy, A., & Carter, R. (2017). Health ministry and activities in African American faith-based organizations: A qualitative examination of facilitators, barriers, and use of technology. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 28(1), 378-388. Web.

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Kisling, L. A., & Das, J. M. (2019). Prevention strategies. StatPearls.

Office of Minority Health. (2019). Black/African American – The Office of Minority Health. Office of Minority Health (OMH). Web.

PEW. (2020). Religion in America: U.S. religious data, demographics and statistics. Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. Web.

Pfizer. (2019). Health disparities among African-Americans. Pfizer: One of the world’s premier biopharmaceutical companies. Web.

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Richards Adams, I. K., Figueroa, W., Hatsu, I., Odei, J. B., Sotos-Prieto, M., Leson, S., Jared, H., & Joseph, J. J. (2019). An examination of demographic and psychosocial factors, barriers to healthy eating, and diet quality among African American adults. Nutrients, 11(3), 519. Web.

Starr, L. T., O’Connor, N. R., & Meghani, S. H. (2021). Improved serious illness communication may help mitigate racial disparities in care among Black Americans with COVID-19. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 1-6. Web.

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