Based on the material from this week, it can be seen that there is a close relationship between race, genetics, and health. A person’s genes can help in the determination of what kinds of illnesses they can get, for example malaria and sickle cell anemia. In this week’s lectures, it was discussed how malaria is a very deadly mosquito-borne parasite that can infect human blood and result in death. In Africa, this parasite commonly infects those that reside in places where the concentration of mosquitoes is high. However, aside from medicine, there is a very interesting way that malaria can be prevented. Once upon a time, a person that lived in an area where malaria is common was born with sickle cell anemia. This deformity of the red blood cells was able to prevent the malaria parasite from properly infecting the host’s red blood cells, thus resulting in a form of malaria prevention. Since people were dying from malaria, only those that had the sickle cell disease or those that happened to not contract malaria, survived and reproduced. Over time, in areas that had large amount of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, those with sickle cell anemia began to flourish because they were not being killed off y the deadly parasite. This is an exact example on how genetics can directly affect your health.
As far as race, this correlation can become considerably more difficult to explain. According to C. C. Gravlee in his article “How Race Becomes Biology: Embodiment of Social Inequality” he defines race as being “a culturally structured, systematic way of looking at, perceiving, and interpreting reality.” But how exactly does this relate to health? Through Gravlee’s data in his article, he conducted research on this very topic. He was able to conclude that there are many differences, health wise, among American’s of different races such as heart skin cancer being more common in Caucasians and kidney disease being more common in African-American’s. I believe this correlation between race and health has to do with where each race originated from and how their genes differ from one another. For example, Caucasians may be more prone to skin cancer than African-American’s because in Africa, the natives had much greater sun exposure which eventually resulted in a higher resistance to skin cancer over time because only those that didn’t die from the sun exposure carried on to reproduce.
Depression and suicide are two problems that many Americans face. However, the Americans that are the most prone to becoming depressed/suicidal are Native Americans. This depression has a direct relationship with the amount of poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, sexual assault, alcoholism, and drug abuse that is seen throughout these people. I believe that the causes of depression among Native Americans have much more to do with social determinants as opposed to genetic determinants. After the return of some of the land back to the Native Americans, they were forced to live on reservations where they had to control their own laws and people. Over the years, many reservations became similar to modern day slums due to the poverty and unemployment of Native Americans. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression were direct results of the poverty which were then followed by domestic violence and sexual assault.
National Center for Children in Poverty. “Adolescent Mental Health in the United States” http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_878.html
CDC. “Diabetes and Depression Among American Indian and Alaskan Native Elders” http://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/hap-issue-brief-aian.pdf