It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are several deadly diseases that strike Blacks harder and more often than they do other groups, particularly whites.
What are the ones affecting us the most? And more importantly, how can we better fight back?
First, let’s look at why these disparities exist:
Why These Disparities?
Genes. Genes definitely play a role. So does the environment in which people live, socioeconomic status — and, yes, racism, says Clyde W. Yancy, MD, associate dean of clinical affairs and medical director for heart failure/transplantation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Unique Cultural Issues. Yancy says that all humans have the same physiology, are vulnerable to the same illnesses, and respond to the same medicines. Naturally, diseases and responses to treatment do vary from person to person. But, he says, there are unique issues that affect Black Americans.
“We must recognize there are some arbitrary issues that are present in the way we practice medicine and dole out health care,” Yancy tells WebMD. “It forces us to think very carefully about the very volatile issue of race and what race means. At the end of the day, it is more likely an issue of socioeconomics and political issues of bias as well as physiologic and genetic issues.
Agreeing with Yancy is LeRoy M. Graham Jr., MD, a pediatric lung expert who serves on the American Lung Association’s board of directors, is associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and serves as staff physician for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“I just think we as physicians need to get more impassioned,” says Graham. “There are health disparities. But we as doctors need to spend more time recognizing these disparities and addressing them — together with our patients — on a very individual level.”
Next, here are seven of the diseases affecting African Americans the most:
60% more common in Blacks than in whites. Blacks are up to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a limb amputation and up to 5.6 times more likely to suffer kidney disease than other people with diabetes.
The death reflected a harsh reality in the United States: Asthma hits African-Americans particularly hard, and the health care system often fails them. An estimated 15.3 percent of black children have the disease compared with 7.1 percent of white children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, African-Americans are nearly three times as likely to die from asthma as white people.
You may not hear it much, but deaths from lung scarring — sarcoidosis — are 16 times more common among Blacks than among whites. The disease recently killed Bernie Mac, former NFL star Reggie White at age 43 and affects others like actress Tisha Campbell.