Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Disturbing Health Status of the Black Male

In 1990, an article in the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’ reported that “Black men in Harlem were less likely to reach the age of 65 than men in Bangladesh.” A recent comparison of current federal health data with the ‘2005 Human Development Index’ published by the United Nations shows that the poor international health status of black men in the United States persists in the new millennium. Today, the average American can expect to live 5 years longer than a Palestinian -- unless that American is a black male, in which case he can expect to die three years sooner.
The life expectancy at birth for black males in the U.S. (68.8) is lower than that for males in Iran (69.0), Colombia (69.3), and Sri Lanka (71.5) -- populations identified by the United Nations as having “medium human development.” In fact, the average life expectancy for black males is much closer to that of Vietnam, El Salvador, and Iraq than it is to the life expectancy of white males in the U.S. What accounts for this strikingly poor international health status for black males in the U.S.? And, most importantly, what should we do about it?

A reflection of racial disparities in health
The peculiar paradox of a “Third World” health status for a group living in the richest and most medically advanced country in the world is deeply unsettling. Grasping this phenomenon requires a core understanding of the enduring racial differences in men’s health in the United States. Black males have the shortest life span of all racial or ethnic groups in the nation -- a fact that has remained unchanged for at least the past 100 years. In fact, black men have the highest overall mortality rate across all geographic regions in the U.S. and across all age groups from birth to age 84, with the widest racial gaps in mortality occurring in the prime adult years, ages 25-54.
Racial disparities in men’s health exist across virtually all major chronic diseases. For example, in comparison to their white male counterparts, black men have a 40 percent higher incidence of type 2 diabetes and they are 20% more likely to die from heart disease. Black males ages 22-44 are 20 times more likely to develop kidney failure due to high blood pressure than are white males in the same age group. Black men also have the highest overall cancer incidence and mortality in the country and the highest rates of hypertension in the world.
Racial disparities in men’s health are hardly limited to chronic diseases. For example, black men have the highest HIV incidence and AIDS mortality rates, the highest STD incidence, and the highest homicide rates in the U.S. 5 black veterans are more likely to suffer combat-related post-traumatic stress syndrome.
In addition, black men are severely over represented in the nation’s prisons, and black male inmates have worse health, including higher rates of circulatory disease, HIV, and dental health problems than do white inmates. The black male incarceration rate (3,457 per 100,000) is 8 times higher than that of whites, with black men comprising roughly half (47%) of the nation’s 2.1 million inmates but only 6% of the general population. Black males and females are also over represented among other medically at-risk populations, including foster care residents and the homeless.


Post a Comment

<< Home