All Articles Tagged "African-American health"

Medical Bills Are The Number One Cause Of Bankruptcy In America

June 30th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Americans just can’t seem to get a grip on paying their mortgages or credit card bills due to outstanding medical charges. Even with health insurance supplementing the costs, medical bills are the biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S., reports CNBC.

Unpaid medical bills are expected to drive nearly two million Americans to file for bankruptcy this year, a study by NerdWallet Health said. The findings also show that 56 million people — 20 percent of the U.S. population between the ages of 19 and 64 — will find financial hardship due to healthcare costs.

While most people assume credit card debt is the primary culprit behind bankruptcies, the towering debt is actually caused by skyrocketing health costs. “More than 11 million people will take on additional credit-card debt to cover mounting medical bills, ” CNBC added.

NerdWallet found that 10 million Americans will not be able to cover food, rent, and utilities due to these medical expenses.

As MN recently reported, 25 percent of African Americans found that paying to stay healthy was a struggle; they could not afford the prescription drugs they needed. While health care plans should remove some financial burdens, it turns out that insurance coverage does not alleviate the stress. “The annual family of four—with employer-paid health insurance—annually spends more on medical bills than groceries,” that article said.

Insurance policies with high-deductible health plans take a toll on Americans as they require consumers to pay out-of-pocket more frequently. “With an average American family bringing home $50,000 in income, a high medical bill and a high-deductible insurance plan can quickly become something they are unable to pay,” said Christina LaMontagne, vice president of NerdWallet Health.

Mike Jackson, an African-American man afflicted with high blood pressure and diabetes accumulates a bill of $500 a month, NPR said. Jackson was laid off from his job and lost his health benefits. He was once taking 60 units of insulin to control his diabetes, but now he must settle for 30 units a day to cut prescription costs. However, the cutback caused problems. “Jackson developed numbness in his foot, toes, and nerve damage in his eye—all complications of uncontrolled diabetes,” NPR added.

“It’s one of those things where, if something happens to my car or to me healthwise, I’m in trouble,” Jackson said.

Many Americans  swamped in health care bills share in Jackson’s sentiments when he stated, “If anything goes wrong, I’m one step away from disaster.”

This Beauty Shop Isn’t For Hair, It’s For Your Health

June 7th, 2012 - By Charlotte Young
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With African American women facing more health risks than women in all other racial groups, creative community measures must be taken to uplift black health. In response to the challenge, a press statement reports Dr. Didra Brown Taylor’s  Black Beauty Shop Health Outreach Program launch.

Taylor modeled her program after the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program. The now nationwide Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program was launched in August 2010 with Congressman Alcee Hastings in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The program included over 15 barbershops and beauty shops and has been able to screen over 37,000 men for diabetes and high blood pressure.

Taylor, who is a National Institute of Health-Health Disparities Research Scholar and specialist in culturally appropriate community-based research methodology, hopes that her new initiative would have high levels of success as well among African American women. The program brings to mind the historical and cultural significance of the beauty shop in the black community. Using black-owned beauty shops, the program will provide health information and education and free health screenings to African American women in underserved communities across the nation. The program’s goal: to build partnerships and link health, education and awareness with beauty necessities. It brings addresses the lack of services provided in communities in a safe and personal environment.

The Black Beauty Shop Health Outreach Program is a vehicle for access to health information, offers free health screenings and education to address the critical lack of services to underserved African American women through Black owned beauty shops across America. The goal of the program is to build alliances with trusted community partners to align health, education and awareness with beauty regimens to address the needs of the African American women in a safe and easily accessible location where personal care is the focus.

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How Soul Food Got A Bad Rap

November 22nd, 2011 - By Charing Ball
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"soul food"

by Charing Ball

The Thanksgiving day holiday is upon us and as we know, this is the day in  which we are suppose to pay homage to the difficult maiden voyage of the buckle wearing, happy Pilgrims, who held a harvest festival to “thank” the local natives for saving them from starvation and…yadda, yadda, yadda.
Let’s get real; the real legacy of the “holiday” revolves around treachery, terror and forthcoming genocide against the natives.  However, we all can appreciate a day off from work and school.  Likewise, many of us enjoy the opportunity to gather with the clan for a mini-family reunion. At least that’s what my grandma tells me whenever I start intensely scrutinizing the true history of Thanksgiving at the dinner table. “Why can’t we have a nice family dinner without bringing politics into it? Now shut up and pass the candied yams.”

Normally I frown upon that kind of dismissal of my passionate soliloquy.  But even the historical plight of the natives has to take a backseat to macroni and cheese and collard greens.  And that folks is probably the number one reason why we celebrate Thanksgiving: we love food. But not just any food but comfort foods like soul food.  How can anyone resist the delicious plates of ribs, candied sweet potatoes or yams, collard greens, fried chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, fried okra, oxtails, rice and beans, potato salad, chitterlings and pigs feet, hush puppies, black eyed peas, warm cornbread and grandma’s famous sweet potato pie?  Are you hungry yet?

These soulful meals have become the backbone of the black cuisine. So much so that nutritionists have decided to create a special modified version of the standard food pyramid, called the Soul Food Pyramid, so that it is tailored to the African American diet. For many of us in the black community, soul food speaks to the sordid history we have in this country, but in some instances, acts as a connection we as American Blacks have with the African Diaspora. Foods such as yams, okra and greens can be traced back as early as 4000 BC on the African continent. However, even with all of its historical significance, the Soul food meal has not escaped the scrutiny of health and medical professionals, who blame it for the downfall of the health of the black community.

“Soul Food is a modern day slave diet,” that’s what your cousin Raheem, a recent convert to veganism will tell you.  “Keep eating that fried food and grease and see how long you live,” he says, while side-eying your plate at the family dinner. Raheem has a valid reason to be concerned: black folks are outpacing other groups in the rate of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. But is it fair to blame Soul Food for the all the health ills of our community?

In order for the “it’s the Soul Food” meme to work, we would have to establish first that this is what we eat every single day of our lives. And we know this is not true as the time and energy needed to make a complete Soul Food meal makes it impractical for everyday consumption, which is why it is looked upon as a traditional celebratory meal or occasional meal reserved for big family functions like holidays, reunions and repasses.  For instance, back in the day, the preparation for our soul food inspired holiday dinners would begin at least two days in advance, when my granny, grandmother, mother and I would sit around in the kitchen tearing the collards from the steams, peeling potatoes and snapping peas.  Nothing we prepared and eventually ate during our family meals came from a can or a bag, with exception of the collards, which would be hauled into the house in a trash bags, picked fresh from a local farm.

However our daily diets outside of family dinners where completely different.  Granny and grandma weren’t around and my mothers, who spent most of her waking hours rushing from one job to the next, didn’t always have the time to prepare meals, let alone meals with a bit of soul in it. In essence, our appetite for sweet potato, potato salad and fried chicken were often soothed with Cheetos, Tastykakes, KFC, Burger King, Pepsi and a bunch of other quick and easy dessert foods, which had become so prevalent in the community.

In fact, study after study has shown a direct correlation between one’s poor health and the distance to the nearest fresh-veggie purveyor. Likewise, the cost of fresh ingredients like fruits and vegetables, which is five times as much as processed franken-foods, has made eating healthy a luxury in many poor communities. Matter of fact, I was in the supermarket the other day and gasped when I saw them selling three lemons for $1.99. I could get a 48 ounce bottle of preservatives-laced lemon juice for half the price. Whether we like to admit it or not, those little discrepancies in prices add up. And as such, the overreliance on fast foods to fill daily dinner plates as well as the lack of access to healthier foods has made the average person  more vulnerable to food-related death and disease than grandma’s made-from-scratch ham-hocks and black eyed peas ever could.

A few years back, The Root ran a story about instant soul food and how mass production and distribution has basically diminished the quality of some of the black community’s most beloved comfort foods with things like salt, processed oils, taste enhancers and chemicals to prolong shelf life along with all the advertising costs. Add all these details in with the overall lifestyle shift from intensive physical labor to more sedentary existences and you can certainly see what is truly at the heart of our health crisis.

In the long run, getting back to our family-style Soul Food dinners may do more to ensure a healthier, well rounded diet than all the diet food and tricks in the world.  Not only are we forced to sit down, eat and converse together as a family unit but also forced to prepare and cook meals from scratch – without the fillers and added taste enhancers. There is a reason why Aunt Carol’s brought-from-the-supermarket apple pie never gets touched.


Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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Study Could Explain Black Kids' Food Allergies

September 6th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Time) — New research suggests that race and ancestry may play an important role in food allergies.  Dr. Rajesh Kumar, a pediatrician at Northwestern University Medical School, and his team report in the journal Pediatrics that black children are more than twice as likely as white children to have sensitivities to eight foods that commonly cause allergic reactions, and that they are especially vulnerable to peanut allergies.  While other studies have linked African American ethnicity to a higher risk of asthma, Kumar’s group was interested in investigating whether race also affects children’s risk of allergy to certain foods. Using a multi-ethnic database of 1,104 children who participated in regular health checkups at 6 months, then again at 1, 2, 4 and 6 years old, the scientists measured the youngsters’ antibodies to egg white, cow’s milk, peanut, soy, shrimp, walnut, wheat and cod.

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What Would Jesus Do? Lay off the Fried Food

August 22nd, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(New York Times) — Despite a dirge of grim health statistics, an epidemic of diabetes and heart disease and campaigns by heath agencies and organizations, the Delta diet, a heavenly smorgasbord of things fried, salted and boiled with pork, has persisted.  It has persisted because it tastes good, but also because it has been passed down through generations and sustained through such cultural mainstays as the church fellowship dinner. But if the church helped get everybody into this mess, it may be the church that helps get everybody out.  For over a decade from his pulpit here at Oak Hill Baptist in North Mississippi, the Rev. Michael O. Minor has waged war against obesity and bad health. In the Delta this may seem akin to waging war against humidity, but Mr. Minor has the air of the salesman he once was, and the animated persistence to match.

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California Faces Crisis of Black Maternal Deaths

August 9th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Press TV) — A new report from the California Department of Public Health reveals the stark disparity: the mortality rate for black women was 46 deaths for every 100,000 live births from 2006 to 2008, while the rates for Asian, white and Hispanic women in the same period ranged from 9 to 13 deaths per 100,000 births. A 2007 Centers for Disease Control national breakdown showed a similar — but smaller– race gap, with black women at about three times the risk for maternal death as white women.

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Feds Boost Resources for African-American Health

June 8th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(USA Today) — Clara Robertson has traveled many miles from her home in Montgomery, Ala., to walk dirt roads, knock on doors of trailers and help black women face cancer.  Robertson, 52, finds free transportation for women who can’t get to a screening or an oncologist. She hands out pamphlets. She comforts. She explains that cancer won’t care that they don’t have the time or money for treatment. “In the South, it’s so different,” Robertson says. “My mom didn’t believe in going to doctors.”  As a volunteer for a program organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of Alabama, Robertson is a diplomat, working to erase nagging health disparities between black Americans and all other Americans.  Death rates for black Americans surpass those of Americans overall for heart disease, cancer, diabetes,HIV and homicide, the CDC reports.

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Chronic Disease Highest Among African Americans

May 23rd, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Smoke Signals: Study Says Menthol Ban Could Save 600k Lives

May 13th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(The Grio) — Banning menthol cigarettes could save 600,000 premature deaths by 2050, according to new data released today in the American Journal of Public Health. A third of those deaths are among African-Americans, who predominately smoke cigarettes with menthol flavoring.  “Tobacco is not an equal-opportunity killer, and the link between menthol smoking and African Americans cannot be overemphasized, nor can it be overlooked,” said Dr. David Abrams, senior author of the study and executive director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the American Legacy Foundation.

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Black Maternal Mortality on Rise in NY

April 28th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Amsterdam News) — New York City is one of the most fatal cities in the United States for a woman to have a baby.  That’s the indication from the most recent data on maternal mortality here, which show Black women are nearly eight times more likely to die during pregnancy or right after childbirth than white mothers.  In 2008, Black women in New York City experienced 79 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 10 white maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and a national rate of 13 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the latest data available.

The rate of maternal deaths among Black women in New York City has increased annually since 2004, when the city reached a low of 44 Black maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. That’s all according to vital statistics released by the city in January.  “If I were mayor, I’d be saying, ‘This is a priority,’” said Maureen P. Corry, executive director of Childbirth Connection, a New York-based agency working to improve maternal health through research, advocacy and policy. “This needs urgent attention. What is happening to women in our city?”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg began the year with the upbeat news that the average New Yorker’s life span had increased by five months to 79.4 years, a historic high. At the same time, the city extolled the success of city agencies in reducing smoking and infant mortality, helping to make New York one of the healthiest cities in the United States. While not specifically mentioning mothers, Bloomberg did acknowledge that the need to reduce preventable deaths and health disparities in the city persists.

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