Factors Contributing to Racial Health Disparities

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Factors Contributing to Racial Health Disparities

October 20, 2012

Word Count: 1317

Despite controlling for social economic status and education, which is one of the biggest indicators of how healthy a person may be, it still seems as though most minorities are relatively less healthy than their white counter-parts. This means that there must be other factors affecting the health of our nations minority races. This paper explores what some of these contributing factors are and how they developed. CULTURAL & BEHAVIORAL DIFFERENCES

Roberta Spalter-Roth, Terri Ann Lowenthal, and Mercedes Rubio of the American Sociological Association have concluded that “research by epidemiologists shows that African Americans are less likely than white Americans and Asian Americans to engage in preventive health practices related to diet, smoking, exercise, and use of screening tests” (2005:5). The poor diet choices often associated with minorities may be

due to food deserts.

Some neighborhoods in the United States, particularly those in low-income areas, have been dubbed "food deserts" because residents do not live near supermarkets or other food retailers that carry affordable and nutritious food. Low-income residents of these neighborhoods and those who lack transportation rely more on smaller neighborhood stores that may not carry healthy foods or may offer them only at higher prices (Nuitrition Week 2010:1).

Since minorities are known to have lower socioeconomic statuses (SES), even at the same education level as someone who is white, G. Davey-Smith notes that “Some of the disparities in mortality associated with SES can be explained by lifestyle. For example, persons of lower SES are more likely to smoke, to drink to excess, and to have high-fat diets” (1996:486). One may wonder how minorities can afford to partake in risk taking behaviors when their SES is so low that it is negatively effecting their health. Health status does not come down to an individuals absolute amount of wealth but rather their relative wealth. “It is unclear why relative poverty, defined only in relation to the average resources available in a society and not necessarily with a lack of sufficient food, clothing, or shelter, is related to ill health” (McCally et al., 1998). It appears that just being ranked lower than our peers is enough to have a negative impact on our health.

Researchers have begun to show that one’s health status may also be heavily dependent on the number and quality of relationships we have with those around us (Cohen, Farley, Mason 2003:2). Communities with lower SES have lower rates of social cohesion, or quality relationships (Coleman, 1988) and individuals in lower SES groups have less social support from their community (Berkman & Breslow, 1983). RACIAL DISTRIBUTIONS & COMMUNITIES

Social relationships do not seem to thrive in low SES communities, but the lack of these high quality relationships does not fully explain the trends of lower health among certain races. Neighborhoods with high concentrations of minorities, the same neighborhoods with low self rated health statistics, also seem to have higher concentration of liquor stores and are more likely to be located in a food desert (LaVeist & Wallace Jr., 2000). This gives minorities no other option but to eat lower quality foods, and they are more frequently exposed to risk behaviors such as drinking in their communities. The social pressure from seeing so many of their peers engaging in risky health behaviors may be a large contributing factor to why minorities seem to develop these habits in the first place. Indicators of a low SES community such as broken windows and abandoned cars have shown to be positive predictors of the gonorrhea rates for that particular area (Cohen et al., 2003:2).

The development of communities with such a heavy concentration of low income minorities may partly be attributed to racial steering from real estate...
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