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Health Status and Promotion Among African Americans


Available literature demonstrates that most health promotion activities targeting minority populations and vulnerable groups fail to achieve their intended objectives due to factors such as sustained inequalities in healthcare provision, socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, and cultural orientations (Lang & Bird, 2015). To ensure that health promotion activities become effective for these groups of the population, it is important to understand the health status of these groups of the population as well as the dynamics and barriers that lead to health disparities (Tillotson, Doswell, & Phillips, 2015). This paper not only looks into the current health status of African Americans but also assesses issues of health promotion and health disparities as they relate to this group of the population.

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Current Health Status

It is documented that 13.5% of African Americans of all ages are in fair or poor health, which is substantially high compared to the national average of around 10% (Health of Black, 2016). 22.7% of African American men and 15.2% of African American women aged 18 years and above currently smoke cigarettes, against a national average of 18.8% and 14.8% for men and women respectively (Current Cigarette Smoking, 2016).

Although African Americans are more likely to die of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes than Caucasians, their mortality rate of 733 deaths per 100,000 is low compared to the national average of 821.5 deaths per 100,000 (Deaths and Mortality, 2016; Health of Black, 2016). 13.5% of African Americans under 65 years do not have a health insurance coverage compared to the national average of around 13.3% (Health of Black, 2016; Health Insurance Coverage, 2016), hence continue to be disadvantaged in healthcare delivery (Kennedy, 2013). Lastly, available documentation demonstrates that 37.9% of African American men and 57.6% of African American women aged 20 years and above are obese compared to a national average of 35.1% (Health of Black, 2016; Obesity and Overweight, 2016).

Health Promotion

Health promotion in this group of the population is defined using a cultural lens because culture plays a significant role in influencing the behaviors of African Americans and their families. Additionally, the family unit is of immense importance to this minority group as demonstrated by the fact that many issues revolve around the family (Tillotson et al., 2015). Consequently, health promotion activities aimed at assisting African Americans to improve their health must be culturally-specific and designed around the family as the main center of influence.

Health Disparities

There are many health disparities that affect African Americans due to cultural, socioeconomic, and sociopolitical factors. In cultural factors, available literature demonstrates that most African Americans engage in unhealthy behaviors such as physical inactivity and alcohol consumption due to cultural and gendered perceptions that fail to reinforce the importance of physical exercises and alcohol moderation to maintain healthy lifestyles (Kennedy, 2013). These cultural predispositions have translated to high incidences of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity among this minority group (Kim & Larson, 2013).

The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among African Americans is associated with cultural values that seem to entrench promiscuity and other risky sexual behaviors (Lang & Bird, 2015). Additionally, many African American women die of cancer and child mortality in this group of the population is high due to cultural barriers that prevent individuals from seeking preventive healthcare services such as cancer screening and childhood vaccination (Tillotson et al., 2015).

In socioeconomic barriers, it is clear that factors such as low education, low-paying jobs and lack of employment opportunities continue to affect African American as they experience difficulties in accessing quality care due to financial constraints and limitations in the knowledge and skills required to make informed health decisions (Kim & Larson, 2013). Lastly, in sociopolitical barriers, scholars have argued that most of the existing healthcare policies do not address the needs of African Americans due to factors such as discrimination, unfair political representation, and inequity in sharing national resources (Kennedy, 2013; Kim & Larson, 2013). Consequently, many African Americans do not have health insurance covers and cannot benefit from a number of federal- and state-funded healthcare programs.

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Health Promotion Approach

The behavior change health promotion approach could be used to reduce the incidence of diabetes among this minority group. Here, primary prevention can take the form of developing and implementing education and awareness programs aimed at modifying dietary habits and increasing physical activity. Secondary prevention can be achieved by implementing programs that aim at bringing gyms and physical exercise facilities closer to community members with the view to reducing the impact of diabetes in this group of the population.

Stakeholders can use role models and TV personalities to reinforce behavior change and encourage community members to participate in exercise programs. Lastly, tertiary prevention can be achieved by funding diabetes clinics at the community level with the view to helping diabetic patients to manage the long-term effects associated with the disease and improve their physical functioning and quality of life indicators. This approach is the most effective as stakeholders have the capacity to use cultural predispositions that are respected in the community to persuade individuals to adopt healthy behaviors. Additionally, the initiative has the capacity to use the family unit to ensure that African Americans make informed choices regarding their health and wellbeing (Kim & Larson, 2013).


Overall, it can be concluded that health promotion interventions targeting African Americans must take into account cultural considerations and family influences if they are to succeed in modifying health behaviors and improving the health of this minority group.


Current cigarette smoking among adults in the United States. (2016).

Deaths and mortality. (2016).

Health of Black or African American non-Hispanic population. (2016).

Health insurance coverage. (2016).

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Kennedy, B.R. (2013). Health inequalities: Promoting policy changes in utilizing transformation development by empowering African American communities in reducing health disparities. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 20(4), 155-162.

Kim, M.S., & Larson, J. (2013). Health disparities and exercise among ethnic groups. Journal of Intercultural Disciplines, 11(1), 41-50.

Lang, M.E., & Bird, C.E. (2015). Understanding and addressing the common roots of racial health disparities: The case of cardiovascular disease and HIV/AIDS in African Americans. Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine, 25(1), 109-138.

Obesity and overweight. (2016).

Tillotson, M., Doswell, W.M., & Phillips, C.M. (2015). Finding a voice: An allocentric worldview to guide effective reduction of behavioral health disparities in African Americans. Journal of African American Studies, 19(1), 65-78.

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