Survey: Disproportionate Illness Among African-American Community

By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter
By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - As we observe the Martin Luther King Junior Holiday, many people reflect on the work that is yet to be done.

Many disparities still exist, and that includes the status of health and health care in the African-American community.

Most chronic and infectious diseases affect people of color disproportionately.

Health, lifestyle, social and economic conditions all contribute to the disparities affecting minority populations.

And this doesn't bode well for a state which is already among the least healthy in the nation.

The leading cause of death of African-American Tennesseans ages one to 44 is injury.

It's a serious issue for black men in particular, who are 31 times more likely to die from homicide than white women.

Among African-Americans 45 and older, cardiovascular disease and cancer are the leading causes of death.

In fact, black men demonstrate the highest mortality rate from heart disease and cancer in every age category above 45.

East Town Urgent Care Doctor Jay Hammett says regular health screenings could prevent thousands of these deaths.

"Access of care. I think that's a big issue. A lot of communities have gotten together to clinics to help in areas. A lot of churches got screens for diseases such as sickle cell," he says.

Infectious diseases disproportionately affect African-American Tennesseans, as well.

Black Tennesseans are more than eight times as likely to become infected with AIDS as whites.

"A lot of young women themselves, and it's rising in women, they typically aren't taking care of themselves, protecting themselves like they should," says Dr. Hammett.

Though, both black and white women report approximately the same levels of risky sexual behavior.

Tennessee's infant mortality rate ranks 48th worst in the country, and African-American babies die at two and a half times the rate of white babies.

In fact, an African American baby born in Tennessee has a greater chance of dying than if that baby was born in any other state in the south.

And at all ages, African Americans have a shorter life expectancy than whites.

In Tennessee, a white baby born is 2002 is expected to live 5.2 years longer than its black counterpart.

Much of the information in this report is based on "The Populations Of Color In Tennessee: Health Status Report."

It's produced by the Office of Minority Health to address health disparities in Tennessee's minority communities.


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