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In the first national study of its kind, a UC Irvine sociologist finds that black immigrants who arrive in America from black-majority regions of the world are healthier than those from white-majority regions; still, regardless of how healthy black immigrants are when they come to the U.S., the longer they stay, the more their health erodes. The findings suggest racial discrimination is a major cause of poor health for American blacks – native and foreign-born alike.

UCI's Jen'nan Ghazal Read and Rice University's Michael O. Emerson examined the health of more than 2,900 black immigrants coming from the top regions of emigration: the West Indies, Africa, South America and Europe. Compared to U.S.-born blacks, those born in Europe – a majority-white region that most closely resembles the U.S.'s racial structure – are the least healthy, faring no better than American-born blacks. Blacks born in Africa and South America, where whites are the minority, are much healthier than U.S.-born blacks. Those born in the West Indies, a racially mixed region, are healthier than U.S.-born blacks, but less healthy than those from black-majority regions. According to Read, racial minorities are exposed to more stressful life events caused by discrimination. Stress, a key risk factor for many ailments, accumulates over the life course to harm health.

The study, published in the September issue of Social Forces, is the first to look at the health of black immigrants by their region of origin. Prior to 2000, national-level health data combined all black immigrants into a single category, which obscured the differences among them. This study shows the value of breaking them out as individual groups by their home region.

"These findings do not bode well for the persistent black/white health gap in America," said Read, an assistant professor of sociology and lead author of the study. "Any health advantage that black immigrants have when they arrive is lost as they, and then their children, blend into America's racial landscape and suffer the consequences of being black in the United States."

Read said she was somewhat surprised to find that European-born blacks' health was more similar to American-born blacks than other black immigrants. Previous studies have shown that immigrants are generally healthier than their U.S. counterparts when they come to America, primarily because of the selective nature of immigration: those who immigrate are in good health and/or have the financial resources to make such a move. "European countries have a much higher standard of living than African and the West Indian countries – higher incomes and employment rates, better health care and extended vacation time," Read said. "At the same time, the racial dynamics in many European countries are similar to those in the U.S., and we know from studies here that blacks are exposed to more stressful life events that have negative consequences for both their mental and physical well-being."

Read explains that although this study does not provide the definitive explanation for the black/white health gap in America, it encourages researchers and policy makers to take a much harder look at how racial discrimination harms health.

The researchers looked at three measures to assess peoples' health: self-rated health, disability and hypertension. Their primary data came from the 2000-02 National Health Interview Surveys, which are conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and included a question on region of birth for the first time in 2000. Additional data for the study came from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Office of Immigration Statistics and the CIA's World Factbook.
Vita vya panzi (ni) furaha ya kunguru. War among grasshoppers delights the crow. Msema kweli hana wajoli. The speaker of truth has few friends. ("`-''-/").___..--''"`-._ `6_ 6 ) `-. ( ).`-.__.`) (_Y_.)' ._ ) `._ `. ``-..-' _..`--'_..-_/ /--'_.' ,' (((' (((-((('' (((( Noah The African in America
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Noah The African, my brother. You know I have always believed this because one need only take a look at the elderly people in their family and see how much heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks are in it. These are diseases that are mainly caused by stress. There was an issue of TIME magazine I believe that did an expose about the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrom on the body. This was about a year after 11 September. I was thinking as I read the articles, imagine if September 11 happened on a daily basis. Thus the problems black people have today with their health. Not to mention all of the other forces such as genetically modified food, fast food, chemically treated foods, sedentary lifestyles etc. If not for these factors, I think that African people would be living well into their 100s if not well into their 80's and 90's.
In a very real sense, most of us know that already. We recognize the stress-induced maladies that happen when dealing with them on a daily basis. Another series of studies affirms it:

    Today the stress, physical illnesses, and other injuries associated with racism constitute a serious public health problem.

    "The stress does make a difference," said a black engineer in a focus group in a southeastern city. "I think it probably takes five years off your life, to tell you the truth, if you let it get to you." The major and minor slights of racism can accumulate to a very negative health impact.

    In the last two years I and my colleagues have conducted focus groups on discrimination's costs with African Americans in California, Michigan, and Florida. A common report from these African Americans is that bottling up stress and rage stemming from discrimination leads, from their considered perspective, to such health problems as stomach problems, chest pains, hypertension, and depression.

But, lest anyone latch onto the suggestion that it is all a matter of perception or hyper-sensitivity, it is not just us. The study goes on to state:
    White racism has a negative impact on many people of color. Our findings on African Americans parallel those in studies of Latinos in several cities. Significantly, a Latino professor at UF recently told me, "I have done everything good academicians do. I have published quantities of quality research, have become a great teacher, been a good citizen. And, still, white colleagues not even close to my record make thousands of dollars more than I do. Knowing that whatever I do will earn no significant rewards demoralizes me. My biweekly paycheck is the insult responsible for my high blood pressure."

    In recent years there has been much public discussion among whites, including policymakers and influential scholars, of a supposedly "declining significance of race" and of the "end of racism." Our data and recent revelations about racial environments at major companies like Texaco show that racial discrimination targeting African Americans, as well as other people of color, is commonplace in all types of workplaces. The costs of discrimination for Americans of color are so serious as to constitute one of this nation's major public health problems.

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