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Article

The Demography of Fertility  

Visseho Adjiwanou and Ben Malinga John

From the first billion people in the world in 1800 to the projected 9.7 billion people in 2050, the world’s population has passed through various stages. However, the different stages have not been the same for each global region or for every country within the same region. On one side of the spectrum is the fertility transition in Europe and North America, where the decline has been steady, with the median total fertility rate (TFR) declining from 2.80 children per woman in 1950–1955 to 1.66 in 2015–2020. In this region, childbearing is no longer the final goal of marriage, and this change has been accompanied by the emergence of new forms of union. The fertility rate is below the level of replacement in almost all the countries. On the other side of the spectrum is sub-Saharan Africa, where fertility has declined slowly and has stalled in various countries since the 2000s. The median TFR in the region declined from 6.51 children per woman in 1950–1955 to 4.72 in 2015–2020. In this region, this trend is associated with slower increase of the age at first marriage and in of the modern contraception. The fertility transition and its associated factors in the other regions of the world fluctuate between these two scenarios.

Article

Using Lifestyle Interventions to Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk in African Americans  

Robert L. Newton, Jr., George W. Rebok, Andrew McLeod, and Owen Carmichael

Currently, there are no pharmacological interventions that have been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, it is recognized that modifiable behaviors are associated with increased risk of developing dementias. Lifestyle interventions are designed to assist participants in changing these modifiable behaviors. Typical behaviors targeted include dietary intake, sleep patterns, and social, cognitive, and physical activities. It is hypothesized that these effects occur through physiological and biological pathways. African Americans have a high risk of developing dementias, and altering lifestyle behaviors may be effective for reducing risk in this population. Identifying these interventions is important, as effective interventions for a majority non-Hispanic White population do not necessarily translate into effective interventions for African Americans.

Article

Psychosocial Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease in African Americans  

Amy L. Ai, Hoa B. Appel, and Sabrina L. Dickey

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, but the burden of CVD falls disproportionately on racial and ethnic minority populations. Blacks are especially impacted by CVD. Since the 2010s, mortality from CVD has declined and life expectancy disparity between White and Black males has decreased. However, the mortality rate in Blacks remains the highest among all racial and ethnic groups. For example, concerning survival differences between White and Black patients with acute myocardial infarction, 5-year mortality for Black patients is significantly higher than that for White patients. Also, hypertension or high blood pressure and stroke, two of the most disabling diseases, burden Blacks much more than other groups. Furthermore, several major CVD comorbidities or risk factors are linked with disparity in Blacks, especially diabetes, obesity, and chronic kidney diseases. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor. Blacks and Hispanics, as well as Asian American women, all have higher rates of physical inactivity compared with Whites. The literature indicates the remarkable psychosocial and environmental issues that underlie CVD disparities in Black populations. Specifically, the social determinants of health (SDOH) have been shown to be significant indicators of CVD morbidity and mortality causing a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities and low socioeconomic status populations. These SDOH involving economic stability, education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context provide a framework for a multifactorial approach to understand the impact of CVD on the Black community. The Black community has a history of trauma from racism and discrimination, which is still evident in the existence of structural racism. Trust in the health care system within the Black community remains an ongoing issue and stems from the unethical Tuskegee Study. The lack of trust in the U.S. health care system by the Black community is evident in the limited number of Black participants in research and the excess of health disparities within the Black community. Utilizing SDOH provides a context for understanding the complexity of addressing health disparities among historically marginalized groups. A unifactorial approach will not suffice when there are a number of physical, psychosocial, economic, and environment factors that adversely impact the health of underserved and underrepresented groups such as African Americans. Stringent policies to address racism, discrimination, and adequate access to health care for the Black community must be implemented to decrease the presence of CVD as a health disparity. Without the presence of a social and physical environment that provides adequate resources, such as health care services, quality education to attain employment and be health literate, employment to afford access to health care, and the support to engage in preventive care, African Americans will continue to suffer from various health disparities, such as CVD, and have shorter life spans compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

Article

Rebooting Education: A Keystone to Ending Racial and Ethnic Minority Health Disparities  

William A. Vega and Esther J. Calzada

Undermining educational attainment at any stage is a threat to life course health. A strong educational platform is required for adequate human development in the 21st century because it provides a foundation for lifelong knowledge, skills, and competencies that protect health. The importance of educational attainment for health has been acknowledged but remains understudied as an interdisciplinary issue. In US American society, unequal educational opportunity is a historical reality and is reflected in health disparities among African American and Latinx populations over the life span. Reform efforts have been initiated for decades, yet gains in educational attainment show limited progress and wide disparities in lifetime health persist. Educational attainment is a fundamental social determinant of health because it leverages higher income, improves the management of other social determinants of health, improves social skills, improves occupational life chances, and extends life expectancy. The reverse is also true. Low educational attainment that is intergenerational imperils human development by failing to prepare youth with the capabilities to overcome structural disadvantages and poverty, which themselves imperil development. African American and Latinx populations in the United States, who together represent nearly 100 million people and who will be the largest component of the majority-minority American population by the year 2046, confront a web of aversive social determinants, including poverty in de facto segregated communities, violence and trauma, toxic exposures, poorly compensated and often temporary employment, a lack of universal health insurance, racism, and sexism in their daily lives. Clearly, there are social, biologic, and psychological issues associated with the educational attainment and health gradient, and early childhood learning experiences represent a critically important opportunity for human potential by advancing cognitive performance, problem-solving ability, motivation to learn, and overall structural and functional brain development. Families from low educational attainment backgrounds experience the negative impacts of social determinants in their daily lives, and their children’s life chances are diminished by poorly funded schools with ineffective educational programs. Putative causes and potential responses to overcoming the historical problem of neglect have been identified, and there are promising efforts at educational system reform aiming to promote health with effective programs and comprehensive strategies that will close the gaps in educational attainment.