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A Healthy Life Today: What African Americans Can Do

“Every small positive change we can make in ourselves, repays us with confidence in the future.” –Alice Walker

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, African Americans make up about 12.9% of the U.S. population, or 36.4 million individuals.

Even though we comprise a relatively small percentage of the population, as a minority group African Americans often suffer a greater percentage of incidence of many of the leading health conditions in the United States. Why is this? One potential answer to that question is health disparities.

According to the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities a division of the National Institutes of Health, the concept of health disparities is defined as differences in the occurrence, death rate, and burden of health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.

Although the statistics are high regarding the state of African American health, there is still good news! Many of the conditions that impact the health of African Americans can be reduced today by making changes in our lifestyle.


What you can do now

According to Healthy People 2010, a series of documents which provide a guide for improving the health of our nation’s people, by following some of these recommendations, African Americans can significantly reduce the threat of some of these illnesses. Healthy People 2010 focused on two overarching goals:

  1. Increasing Quality and Years of Healthy Life and
  2. Eliminating Health Disparities.

To measure the health of the United States over the next 10 years, a series of Leading Health Indicators have been developed reflect the major health concerns in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century. The Leading Health Indicators were selected on the basis of their ability to motivate action, the availability of data to measure progress, and their importance as public health issues.

Some key health indicators include:

  • Physical Activity
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Tobacco Use
  • Substance Abuse
  • Responsible Sexual Behavior
  • Injury and Violence
  • Access to healthcare

These health indicators can be turned into action steps that will improve your health dramatically if you will consider:


The state of African American health today

According to the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, over the last twenty years, the overall health of our nation has improved significantly, however there are persistently higher rates of disease and death in African Americans as well as other minority populations. Some of the reasons why health disparities exist are lack of access to health care, poverty, discrimination and cultural barriers.

Some examples of health disparities include:

1. Infant Mortality

According to the Office of Minority Health, infant death rates among African Americans occur at a rate of 14.1% of deaths per live births. This is a rate of double that of White Americans.

2. Heart Disease and Stroke

African Americans have a higher risk of death from heart disease and strokes than White Americans. According to a National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities report, African Americans have a 20% higher chance of dying from heart disease. In addition, African Americans have the highest rate of high blood pressure than any of the other groups.

3. Cancer

African Americans have a higher overall incidence of suffering and potentially dying from cancer. According to the Office of Minority Health, Black women have higher rates of breast and cervical cancer even though breast cancer deaths have been reduced in other populations.

4. Diabetes

According to the National Diabetes Education Program, over 2.2 million African Americans have diabetes, the prevalence of Type 1 Diabetes in African Americans accounts for 5-10 percent of all the newly diagnosed cases; however, the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes in African Americans accounts for 90-95 percent of all the cases.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, HIV infection which generally leads to AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American men between the ages of 25-44. Additionally, Black women are 18 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV in 2003 than white women.

For more information on health disparities amongst African Americans and other minorities as well as information on what you can do today, please consult the following sources cited in this document:


Hope Through Research – You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about African American health. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:


For more information:

Go to the African American Health health topic.