Mortality and Minorities

Mortality and Minorities

Hi, my name is Morgan Hill and I have no idea what a health disparity is, and the SEM confuses me. If you are in the same boat I was before I wrote this post, this may be the post for you.

So, first off, what the heck is a health disparity? It is basically the difference in the health of different groups. The groups could be based on race, ethnicity, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Some examples of health disparities are: minorities are more susceptible to heart disease and women are more susceptible to breast cancer. Of course, there are hundreds of other health disparities.

What is the SEM, and what could it possibly have to do with health disparities? SEM stands for social- ecological model, and consists of 5 different levels. These levels include:

  1. intrapersonal factors (individual characteristics)
  2. interpersonal factors (people around you who may influence you)
  3. organizational factors (organizations that promote behaviors)
  4. community factors (community norms)
  5. public policy (laws that regulate behaviors)

These levels can all contribute to how at-risk an individual/ group is to medical conditions which creates and continues health disparities.

Hopefully you understand health disparities and SEM a little better, now let’s put our knowledge to the test.

According to the CDC, infant mortality is higher in black children than any other race. Compared to white babies, black babies are almost three times more likely to die in its first year of life. This is a very shocking health disparity that really makes me think, what could possibly contribute to such a large difference in the death of babies. So, let’s think of this in terms of the SEM. On an intrapersonal level, black women have less knowledge about what exactly contributes to infant mortality and what a healthy pregnancy consists of, which includes eating healthy, exercise, and vitamins. This means, black women are less likely to make healthy choices like eating healthy and exercising during pregnancy. On an interpersonal level, black women are more likely to live in stressful environments which contributes to infant mortality. There is even a study which proves that black women are more prone to stress because of the racism that blacks are subjected to. On an organizational level, black women have less exposure to healthy food and vitamins, as well as good health care insurance. On a community level, there could be different beliefs about what a healthy pregnancy really means. Finally, on a public policy level, there are no laws that regulate the health of pregnant women.

The greatest intervention that could really help black women would be to educate them on this specific health disparity and ways to have a healthy pregnancy, which impacts the intrapersonal level. This could lead to black women eating healthier, exercising, taking vitamins, and eliminating stress during their pregnancies.      

As I stated above, racism has had an impact on the stress levels of black women which contributes to infant mortality. Do you know of any other specific examples where racism has affected the health of a racial group, other than the quality of a doctor’s work?

Hopefully, my little blog post helped you understand health disparities and the SEM. Let me know you feel about the above health disparity, and if this post helped you understand this week’s topic. 

Thanks for reading!

12 thoughts on “Mortality and Minorities

  1. I do believe that racism plays a role in this, however; I believe the socio-economic status of minorities has a larger impact on their health disparities. Socioeconomic status affects every aspect from diet to quality of health care. In the example of the infant mortality rate being higher in black women than white women, the fact that they may have a more unhealthy diet during pregnancy and or the lack of available health care during the time while the baby is in the womb. I would guess that if we compare Black women of a higher socioeconomic status would have a more successful birthrate than Black women of low socioeconomic status. If this is the case than it is not necessarily completely due to unconscious bias within the health care system. The bigger issue is the fact that only the wealthy and well off have access to decent health care, and it is not a right. This is also apparent in the another example given above. Minority women are more likely to get breast cancer than white women. One of the problems is that minority women are less likely to take to precautionary steps needed to test for and detect breast cancer early enough, due to the fact that mammograms and other forms of cancer screening are expensive without health insurance. I do believe there may be other factors such as doctors reading them with unconscious bias, but the primary reason is that health care is unattainable for many. Stress is also a major factor in health. However, I have never heard of it impacting minorities and women so deeply that it affects health. I would be interested to see more data on this topic.

  2. I personally think that the largest differences in the health of minorities is the circumstances minorities are more likely to find themselves. While unconscious bias definitely has an affect I am not sure how much of an affect this has, since it is not as easy to measure, especially compared to things like socioeconomic status or culture. I think the main thing that can be done to improve the condition of minorities’ health is to improve the quality and availability of health to those in difficult socioeconomic circumstances.

  3. Hi Morgan,

    I think this was a great blog post. I really liked how you first explained what a health disparity was and proceeded to explain what is SEM. I do believe that education plays a key role in disease because if you are not knowledgeable about your health and what you should be doing to stay healthy than indeed you will fall sick to disease. Socioeconomic status is another factor since some do not have enough money to buy fruits and vegetables. The cheapest food is the unhealthiest. Its hard for poor families to eat healthy when pop and snacks are cheaper than fruits and vegetables.

  4. I really appreciate the fact that you went through and explained the SEM and health disparities through an example, and I really agree with all the points you made about it as well. I believe education is absolutely key in trying to minimize health disparities because the more a patient knows, the more likely they will be to seek medical attention early and/or just generally take better care of themselves.

    I agree with a comment above mine as well, that while racism does play a part, socio-economic status of a patient is a HUGE aspect of healthcare. A real life example of that: my family has a history of breast cancer and past generations have usually been fairly poor. Many of my aunts/grandmas have died from breast cancer because they found out they had it after it had already progressed. The majority of the time, they hadn’t gone to see a doctor or gotten tested because they simply could not afford a doctor visit. My great aunt Jeanne knew something was wrong for years but never got checked because she was afraid of the expenses, and ultimately lost her life because of that.

    I am very thankful that insurance is more widespread now vs. then when my family members were too afraid to seek medical help, but I know that the monetary aspect of healthcare is still daunting and creates disparity.

  5. Morgan, I appreciated your post regarding some of the issues that are presented in examining global and public health among minorities. Certainly, education is a key part of initiating progress in reducing health disparities. Individuals cannot be expected to pursue particular living habits that are intended to help them if those habits or directives have not been properly communicated. In addition, I would add that familial structure is a weighty part of those habits as well. I do think that racism is still a problem in America, though I would qualify that statement in stating that it occurs to many minority races, not only African-Americans. I recently watched a video in which Asian-Americans described horrendous instances of racial discrimination; even just a few weeks ago, Fox News aired a blatantly disrespectful and frankly racist film of a reporter in Chinatown. Racism has not been eradicated in our country, and unfortunately, because humanity is sinful, all racism can never be eradicated. However, we can continue to advance our society by promoting respect of others. Respect may not always equate to an agreement with one’s lifestyle or life choices, but it demands a fundamental baseline of integrity and honesty that humans should have for each other. When this is coupled with greater education, the potential for advances in health care are boundless.

  6. I think Morgan provided an amazing example here of what the social-ecological model could look like in regards to infant mortality. This is such a great way to analyze issues and better understand where the root of the problem is. I agree with Morgan in that the reason for this disparity between the mortality of white babies and black babies comes down to education. Something needs to change here…but how? What is the best way for women to receive the information that could save their child’s life? I am no expert on this, but I would imagine a public health initiative in which perhaps there was a free clinic and some classes on healthy living and childcare would really be beneficial.

  7. I found your blog post extremely helpful. Similar to you, I too was still very confused about health disparities and the SEM model. The model itself still confuses me as when I try to think of examples, often one of the levels seems to be missing. As far as health disparities, I actually have learned a little about these in another class here. In my Anthropology class, we learned about a study conducted on black people. Before the study, it was believed that black people have a genetic predisposition to hypertension. The study compared three different populations of black people, one from Africa, one from the Caribbean, and another from the Southern United States. It found that hypertension was highest in the United States by far. They also determined the key factor was stress. Particularly, the stress associated with racism. This is a perfect example of how one’s culture and racism can create health disparities.

  8. I agree that one of the main factors for health disparities is socioeconomic status. Many of the cheaper, faster foods do not contain the proper nutrients that we need, and are full of processed materials. It is much more expensive to get organic food, therefore only the wealthier people can afford the healthier stuff. Education could also play a significant factor in what parents are feeding their kids. They need to know what is considered unhealthy and what will benefit their kids if they eat it. You also brought up a very interesting point about racism and how it affects women. I think that statement about how black women feel more stress due to racism is a very powerful statement. It really is a testament to the fact that some people have no idea what black people go through dealing with racism. Overall, I agree with this blog post a lot.

  9. The ideas that you have come up with are very interesting. I think the root cause of many of these issues is economics inequality. There should be programs that aid in equalizing economic opportunity which would in turn automatically help allevaite the rest of these problems.

  10. Morgan,

    Thank you for taking that time and explaining what the meaning of a health disparity was and how it can affect a multitude of communities. Like you, I had no initial idea on what it meant for there to be a health disparity and wanted to know more. Your blog post provided both background and further analysis which proved to be very insightful. In light of that, you bring up an excellent point when it comes to the educational difference in the groups. In particular, when you refer to the educational imbalance for black women when it regards to a healthy pregnancy, it is very true to provide a better educative system. Each of the levels has a distinct yet related impact on such disparities. For example, certain food deserts force many people in urban communities to rely on unhealthy diets and fast food as there is not motivation nor support to encourage a healthy diet, largely due to the absence of markets for produce and ingredients. On a second note, the racism and stress that is caused by the inherent bias is something that can lead to the hypertensions and socioeconomic difference. With all of these issues and factors combined, it can become significantly easier to understand what a health disparity is and how it can have resolved.

  11. Thank you for taking the time to explain the socio-ecological model and health disparities. I also find it shocking that the infant death rate is highest among black babies. I agree that racism causes health disparities, even if the health care provider is not consciously aware of what is going on. I found it very interesting in last weeks lecture how the physician’s knowledge of the patient’s gender can influence the course of treatment for a knee replacement.

  12. Like you said, there is definitely a racial factor that would account for the health disparity in pregnant black women. In addition, I also think that a reason that there is such a disparity is because of resources. People of a certain socio-economic status don’t have access to some resources that would enable them to have a healthier pregnancy. Location can also attribute to this. In certain parts of the world, resources are more scarce, which leads to less healthy pregnancies and more infant mortalities.

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