Study Says Blacks Living in Majority-White Countries Have Poorer Health
Living in nations where whites are the majority damages black people's health, according to a new study by researchers at Rice University and the University of California-Irvine.
An analysis by Jen'nan Ghazal Read of UC Irvine and Michael Emerson of Rice found that Africans who immigrate to America face health problems over a period of time similar to those of black Americas. Their study also showed that European-born blacks had similar health problems as American-born blacks.
"We're not saying that white people are hurting black health. But the social structure is set up so that blacks are disadvantaged," Read told BlackAmericaWeb.com. "There is discrimination at an institutional level."
That discrimination often triggers stress, which is a known factor in several diseases affecting blacks disproportionately, Read said.
"We looked at blacks coming from majority-black countries and found that they had much better health," said Read. "Blacks from mixed regions tended to fall in the middle, and the health of those from Europe looked more like the U.S."
Black immigrants can develop illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease at rates comparable to American-born blacks, which have been found to have disproportionate incidence of these diseases.
By the time immigrant families reach the second generation in America, they are no longer immigrants, according to Read. "They are going to have less access and face challenges just like other blacks in America," she said.
The researchers conducted their analysis based on 2002-2003 data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. They also used information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Office of Immigration Statistics and the Central Intelligence Agency's World Fact Book.
"Even black immigrants whose health status is comparable to U.S.-born white Americans' see their health advantage erode as they and their children begin to suffer the consequences of being black in America," Emerson said in a prepared statement.
"Black Europeans are the least healthy of all the black immigrant groups we studied," Emerson said, "even though European countries have higher standards of living -- better incomes, employment rates and health care than Africa, South America or the West Indies."
David Williams, a senior research scientist at the University of Michigan who has studied disparities, said he was not surprised by the findings of the study.
"Immigrants of all racial groups do better than their native born counterparts," Williams told BlackAmericaWeb.com.
Blacks immigrants, said, develop lifestyles and dietary habits similar to American-born blacks and, as a result, have the same health problems.
"Their diets tend to include more fat than fiber," he said. "There is less attention to exercise and physical activity. The American way of life is dangerous to your health."
Read maintains that it isn't just diet and exercise that make the difference.
"Blacks are under more stress in American society than whites, due to life opportunity," she said.
The researchers hope to cause policy makers to take a much harder look at how racial discrimination harms health.
"People don't want to hear this," said Read. "And we're not the first to say it."