Health News sponsored by VCU Health
Suffering in Silence
By: J. Chevonte’ Alexander
Earlier this month, illness unhealthy we had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Candace Johnson, story recipe Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing. We had an in-depth conversation about the health of African Americans and the importance of physical activity, and this week we dug a bit deeper to discuss African American women and the societal barriers that keep us inactive.
Of all minority groups, African Americans have the most, and many times the largest, difference in health risks when compared to other minority groups. African Americans have more disease, disability and early death, as well. No population in the United States has a higher obesity rate than African American women, four out of five of whom are overweight or obese, according to a 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We have a long way to go to tackle the disparities glaring at us. Socioeconomic factors also contribute to the dire health issues African American women face. Unfortunately, this information goes untalked about and African American women are suffering in silence.
According to the CDC, below are just some of the disparities that disproportionately affect African American women.
- 46 percent of African American women 20 years of age and older have hypertension
- Every year 1,722 African American women die from breast cancer
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea infection rates for African American women are 19 times higher than those of white women
- African American women represent 65 percent of new AIDS diagnoses among women
- High blood pressure, the number one risk factor for stroke; and 1 in 3 African Americans suffer from high blood pressure
When we start to hear these startling statistics, eyebrows raise forcing us to pose the questions, “What is going on with African American women?” and “Why are we the most inactive population with higher statistics?” It is important to start talking about these truths, so we can build the social support in our community to start the change.
Eating right and being active are the first, yet sometimes the hardest, steps to take to start living a healthy lifestyle to prevent the onset of diseases. Along with managing your health, you have to manage your stress.
“Before that behavior changes, something psychologically has to change as well. It helps to have options for women,” says Dr. Johnson. “Your body has to take incremental, small steps to reverse the effects of poor eating and inactivity.”
There are various reasons not readily known to address why Black women are the least active in our community. Truth be told, black women feel disenfranchised from physical activity.
- Hair – yes hair! African American women’s hair is a complicated psychological issue which hinders us from daily workouts.
- Social – taking care of the house and everyone else. Many African American women are in a multiple care giving role which puts us in a position where we do not have a lot of time.
- Structural Issue – There is lots of research that shows the areas we live in affect how women feel with safety and wanting to get outside and work out.
- Cultural acceptance of larger body sizes – African American women are proud of their curves, men are accepting of larger bodies and large bodies promote strength.
- Stress and depression – There is an under-diagnosis of depression in African American women.
Even with all these contextual and societal issues, our community can change this paradigm and more importantly, start getting our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and other Black women on the pavement, at the gym and active in general.
So what can we do to change this?
- Join a group that you have to meet up with! Build your social network.
- Talk about health issues within our community so they are no longer ignored.
- Start a walking/running group during your work lunch hour.
Let’s no longer make our own community our biggest obstacle!
We need you to participate!
VCU School of Nursing is conducting a home-based research study. Participants will complete questionnaires, blood pressure testing, learn and practice YouTube video-based, beginner-level chair yoga and mat yoga and light resistance training for 5 days a week for 5 weeks, wear a FitBit and provide a fingerstick blood sample at two different times. It will take 6 weeks to complete this study.
To see if you are eligible to participate in this study, please contact: