Health outcomes in the United States are not created equal, statistics have long shown. African-Americans, in particular, face disparate health risks. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks disease and mortality rates through its National Vital Statistics System, the age-adjusted death rate in 2014 for the black population was 849.3 deaths per 100,000 population, which was 1.2 times that of whites, with 725.4 per 100,000.
Hypertension, renal disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are among the most notable areas in which blacks face higher death rates. Whites are more likely to succumb to suicide, chronic liver disease, chronic lower respiratory disease and Parkinson’s disease.
But those aren’t the only areas of concern, as two physicians from UMass Memorial Health Care discussed in interviews during Black History Month. Lack of awareness about health risks, access to care, cultural traditions and attitudes, as well as living conditions, all play into health status. Health care providers are broadening their efforts to take into account these differences.
Dr. Jennifer S. Bradford is a family medicine physician who practices at Community Healthlink’s Homeless Outreach and Advocacy
Some conditions are more of a challenge to address among her African-American patients, however. “Mental health in particular is something that we don’t talk enough about,” she said. “A lot don’t want to discuss medication, because it’s seen as a sign of weakness.”
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