When the Bough Breaks

I passed the Health Equity Quiz with a modest 1.0 grade after guessing six of the ten questions correctly.  I found it to be a very interesting quiz but the question I found surprising was the question about life expectancy of African American males living in Harlem.  I could not believe that people in Bangladesh have a better chance at reaching the age of 65 than African American males in Harlem!  That really shows how socioeconomic status in America effects health.  It also shows how America perceives the worth of people living in Harlem by not doing anything to improve their conditions and keeping silent about their situation.

The video “When the Bough Breaks” explains how the chronic stress that is associated with racism raises the infant mortality rate amongst African American women.  African American’s have a much higher infant mortality rate than any other race in America.  The video states that the unequal treatment of African Americans in America accounts for the low birth weights and premature deaths.  What is unusual is that raising the socioeconomic status of an individual does not improve the chances of giving birth of a healthy child.  The infant mortality rate for African Americans with a college education is 10.2 per 1,000 births.  The infant mortality rate for European Americans is only 3.7 per 1,000 births.  College educated African Americans have a higher infant mortality rate than European Americans without a high school diploma which is currently at 9.9 per 1,000 births.

The video claims the reason for this is the stress that is induced through racism.  This chronic stress causes health problems for the mother as well as the baby through the bodies stress hormones.  These stress hormones can reduce blood flow to the placenta which can induce labor or damage the baby’s organs.  The video calls the chronic stress of an African American “Live Course Perspective.”

How politics, economics, environment, culture, biology and individual choice influence the development, spread and treatment of illness is a huge question.  First off, as we see above racism within a culture can have large impacts on people health and infant mortality rate.  Sadly many of these racist ideals can spread into politics and racist policies make it harder for minorities to obtain adequate health care and medication.  These same racist ideals can also work their way into environmental policies by placing factories and sewage treatment plants into neighborhoods occupied by minorities and thus reduce health by polluting the air and water.  In America where health has been turned into a commodity people who do not have the economic means to pay for their healthcare either do not receive healthcare or receive a inadequate level of healthcare which negatively effects their overall health.  Low income areas tend to have more fast food restaurants and bars than any other area in town.  This possibly racist zoning leads residents into making poor choices in eating and drinking thus leading them to poor health.

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