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Health Disparities In African American Culture Essay

Culture is one of the things that makes groups of people special, unique and interesting. Just like any other culture, African Americans have traditions that they hold near and dear to their hearts such as the music, dance, religion, food and health beliefs. Although it is always wonderful to celebrate culture and the good things about other cultures, it is just as important to assess the harmful traditions for the purpose of bringing awareness and improvements. In this instance, African American cultural habits and their effect on the general health of the African American community will be assessed.

Additionally, prevalent healthcare disparities in relation to the Health Belief Model will be explored. African American Culture Dance has strong African ties that can be seen in the hip-hop subculture dance styles of krumping and twerking, which both have roots in tribal dance. Krumping characterized by sharp chest thrust, energetic jumps and powerful arm movements and twerking involves hip and waist movements that include isolation techniques (Dodds & Hopper, 2014).

R&B, jazz and soul are considered traditional African American music styles with hip-hop, rap, and neo-soul being the latest additions (McClary & Walser, 1994). Dance and music go handin-hand and can be seen with the popularity of song-specific dance moves such as “The Soulja Boy”, “The Dougie”, “Hit Them Folks” and “Dabbing”. In addition, group line dances such as the “Electric Slide” and the “Cupid Shuffle” are always enjoyed at weddings, birthdays and other celebrations. Dancing may be the only form of physical exercise that an adult might participate in, particularly among women.

The relationship between African American women and exercise is interesting because women may forgo exercising in order to avoid messing up their hair. The sweating that is associated with exercising quickly reverses the time consuming and expensive hairstyles worn by many in the African American community. In a study on hair care practices, 123 African American women were surveyed and 37. 9% reported avoiding exercise because of hairstyle maintenance (Hall, R. R. , Francis, S. , Whitt-Glover, M. , Loftin-Bell, K. , Swett, K. & McMichael, A. J, 2013). Religion is a big part of the culture, with Christianity being the most popular (Pew Research Center, 2009). Some African Americans attend church every Sunday along with other church related activities, while others attend occasionally, watch church service on television or only go on Easter Sunday. Religion is a corner stone in the Black community providing fellowship, community and a second or extended family.

The church is also used for support and is often used as a vehicle for health screening (Levin, J. Chatters, L. M. , & Taylor, R. J. , 2005). Another corner stone of African American culture is the food. Traditional cultural cuisine, known as “soul food”, can be traced back to southern states and consists of favorite dishes like baked chicken, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, greens, string beans, red beans and rice, black eyed peas, succotash, baked ham, grits, chitterling, fried fish, cabbage, candied yams, cornbread (Yang, Y. , Buys, D. R. , Judd, S. E. , Gower, B. A. , & Locher, J. L. , 2013).

Preparation methods used for soul food make them high in calories, cholesterol, fat, sodium and starch (Yang, et al. , 2013). Regular consumption leads to high rates of obesity, cancer, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure (Yang, et al. , 2013). Changes in soul food preparation are occurring that include healthier cooking methods but it’s been a slow transition. Some are unaware of how to make these changes while maintaining a meal that resembles what they are familiar, while others prefer to hold on to traditional cooking methods because it is what they are used to.

The lack of knowledge or resistance to changing cooking styles along with sedentary lifestyle habits are a combination that creates health problems within the African American (Yang, et al. , 2013). Additional disease prevention methods that are overlooked or avoided in this community are health promotion and prevention visits to the doctor. For example, in a study on African American health habits in 2008, 58% of African American men with health insurance went to the Emergency Room at a hospital instead of making an appointment with their primary care physician (Barrow, 2008).

This mean they are less likely to get annual physical check-ups and screenings. Diseases such as obesity, diabetes type II and hypertension are prevalent among this population and can be caught earlier with these easy screening tests. Even though, dancing and prayer can be good for the mind, body and soul, it is evident that they are not enough to prevent illness. Health Disparities in Obesity A 2010 study on obesity in adults compared obesity rates from 1994 to rates in 2008 and found that there was an 11. 6% increase in obesity among White men, while there was a 16. 2% increase in African American men.

Additionally, 49. 6% of African American women were found to be obese, while White women only had a 33% prevalence (Ogden & Carroll, 2010). Health Beliefs About Obesity One long standing health belief in the African American community to explain excess weight is the idea of being “bigboned” (Forster-Scott, 2007). Here, bone size is used as a reason for excess weight as opposed to fat. This goes along with the cultural ideas of what a healthy body looks like, where excess weight is more acceptable in comparison to White culture and being skinny is associated with be sickly (Forster-Scott, 2007).

Health Disparities in Hypertension In 2013, the American Heart Association published hypertension rates of adults ages 20 and over. The rate of African American men was 42. 6% and the rate for African American women was 47%. The rates were higher than their White counterparts, with 33. 4% for White men and 37% for White women. The difference in prevalence rates may be partially due to a difference in beliefs about the cause and treatment for the disease (American Heart Association, 2013). Health Beliefs About Hypertension

In a meta-analysis of 22 hypertension surveys that included over 6,000 African American participants conducted by Buckley, Labonville and Barr, causes of hypertension ranged from those aligned with biomedical reasoning to stress, genetics, poor rest, weather changes, smoking, racism, pollution and germs. Similarly, treatments for hypertension ranged from prescribed medication to home remedies such as vitamins, herbs, garlic Epsom salt and prayer.

Some participants also reported not trusting their healthcare provider and not trusting the medication while other only used the medication when they felt symptomatic. Buckley, Labonville & Barr 2016). The Health Belief Model The Health Belief Model is a ideological construct used to predict behavior. Originally designed in 1952 by Godfrey Hochbaum, Irwin Rosenstock and Stephen Kegels when a free tuberculosis screening didn’t draw in many participants, the model was used as a means to understanding the poor turnout. The model uses determinants or key factors to predict whether a person will change or maintain a behavior.

The key factors include (a) perceived susceptibility – whether a person believes they can get an illness, (b) perceived severity – a persons belief on how bad an illness is, (c) perceived benefits – whether a person believes that doing what the healthcare provider says will help prevent them from becoming ill or help them get well, (d) perceived barriers – physical or phycological things that deter the person from taking action, (e) cues to action – external information that tells a person that they need to take action to prevent getting ill or take action to get well, (f) self-efficacy – a persons belief that they can do what needs to be done to prevent getting sick or to expedite getting well.

Using these six key components, behaviors regarding health prevention and promotion can be predicted (James, D. C. , Pobee, J. W. , Brown, L. , & Joshi, G. , 2012). The key factors are used for behavior predictions and can be used within any age, race, gender, ethnicity or population. For example, the model was first used to predict health screening participation and it has also been used for more culturally sensitive topics. In a study by James, Pobee, Brown and Joshi, the health belief model was used to understand which aspects to include in weight management programs for African American women and predict sign-up and retention rates. The participants believed they were susceptible to obesity and stated genetics and culture were the cause.

They believed that the benefits of weight management were improved looks and reduced risk factors for disease. The women also believed their weight loss barriers were lack of social support and motivation and their level of self-efficacy was strongly related to previous unsuccessful dieting outcomes. After analyzing the responses, the recommendations for the weight management programs were to address ways to help the women overcome their barrier and increase their self-efficacy by providing support, marketing messages that confirmed that it’s okay to let the desire for an improved physical appearance to be motivational and to use the term “weight management” as opposed to “weight loss” (James, D. C. , Pobee, J. W. Brown, L. , & Joshi, G. , 2012).

The open-ended key components allow for information about any population to be plugged in and it provides behavior predictors specific to that group. This model has been used since 1952 and has been used to predict a wide range of behaviors such as HIV risk behaviors (Rosenstock, I. M. , Strecher, V. J. , & Becker, M. H. ,1994), breast self-examination frequency (Champion, 1987), and medication compliance among adult and adolescent diabetics (Bond, G. G. , Aiken, L. S. , & Somerville, S. C. ,1992). Strides have been gained in healthcare prevention due to the ability to assess and evaluate a populations behavior.

The model is readily applicable to all kinds of healthcare topics and can easily be applied to aid in combating hypertension among African Americans. Limited studies are available that directly relate to this topic but given the wide spread use and success of the Health Belief Model, I believe it warrants further study. The African American community will not make the ustantaneous changes that healthcare providers and the American Heart Associate would hope for but they are becoming aware of the risk factors and management tools. Additionally, conveying biomedical information in a manner that is congruent with African Americans beliefs and practices, the information will be retained and passed on to other in the community faster. In order to fix a problem, one must go to the source.

In the instance of hypertension among African Americans, the source would be the communities perceptions about the disease, their perception about their role in prevention and their perception about treatments. Based on the Health Belief Model, a clear understanding and be gathered by the six key factors which could possibly provide healthcare workers with the necessary information to bring about a faster change. CONCLUSION Culture is strongly tied to actions and behavior. In order to help a population change, we have to find ways to help them do so that fit within their paradigm of the world. Understanding the African American perspective provides key insights on beliefs and values that influence everyday habits. Once the beliefs are understood, working within the communities frame of mind can eate healthier habits and save lives.

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