Diabetes among African Americans


As seen in graph above from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over a time period from 1988-2009, the hospital discharge rates for diabetes as first-listed diagnosis per 1,000 diabetic population by race in the United States, has been consistently higher among blacks than whites. Although the rates did decrease over time for both races, due to medical advances and technology, the rate of blacks remained higher than whites over the 21 years of data.

Pertaining to our current anthropological discussion of race, racial inequalities in health explain differences in certain disease rates. Racial inequalities such as socioeconomic status, health behaviors, psychosocial stress, social structure and cultural context, and genetic factors all play a role in differing disease frequencies between racial groups (Gravlee 2009). By first recognizing that race is deeply embedded in sociocultural systems, we can begin to understand the idea of race-disease trends.  Historically, African Americans were at a social disadvantage due to racial inequalities. These racial inequalities included limited financial resources, healthcare access, living conditions, and proper dietary essentials. The racial inequality disadvantages affected the overall health of African Americans and they became predisposed to certain diseases caused by being overweight, poor diets, and improper health care such as diabetes. Over time, the racial inequalities began to shape the social contexts of African Americans, rooting the group in sociocultural habits and trends. In turn, this then places later generations of African American descent at a disadvantage not only due to their embedded sociocultural system, but genetically as well. Within families, if one member has a certain disease, the future generations are genetically predisposed for that disease as well, making family medical history very important.

African American adults are 70 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician, and in 2010 African Americans were 2.2 times as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to die from diabetes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2014).  I believe that diabetes is so prevalent among African Americans due to their historically continued sociocultural disadvantages. The social determinants of African Americans are often inferior to that of other races, which places them in a vulnerable position for any and all health illness, and clearly specifically diabetes.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Age-Adjusted Hospital Discharge Rates for Diabetes as First-Listed Diagnosis per 1,000 Diabetic Population, by Race, United States, 1988–2009.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/dmfirst/fig6.htm (accessed July 10, 2014).

Gravlee, Clarence. “How Race Becomes Biology: Embodiment of Social Inequality.”American Journal of Physical Anthropology: 47-57.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Office of Minority Health. “Diabetes and African Americans .” Diabetes and African Americans. http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=3017 (accessed July 10, 2014).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Riasia Franklin says:

    The topic you chose about diabetes among African americans is a very interesting topic. I believe that a person who suffers from diabetes also have other health issues linked to that such at obesity, high blood pressure, etc. I believe that diabetes has a strong connection with someone being overweight or obese, because someone whose obese would have other serious health conditions. I like how you talked about the relationship between race, genetics and health. It would make sense that african americans are the most susceptible to serious health conditions such as diabetes because of the living conditions , as you stated, the financial status, access to healthcare and the living environments. I also liked how you connected this with family history , because if someone has a history of diabetes or a serious illness in the family, many family members would be more susceptible to that illness. I believe you considered everything as far as heath, race and genetics. I also, would have considered and mentioned all the things you did about diabetes among african americans. I think racial categories in a particular study is very useful because it seems like it makes things easier to point out to observe. When someone wants to observe and research a particular disease or illness , I find it more helpful in dividing things up by racial groups to make things a little bit more understanding and easier. A better way to talk about racialized health disparities could be to discuss the particular illness within more racial groups instead of aiming it to the one with the highest number of cases.

  2. Kelly Cummins says:

    I decided to comment on this post because I find it interesting how you discussed the relationship between race, genetics and health. I definitely agree with you that race is embedded in sociocultural systems. And societal inequalities can definitely lead to genetic predisposition within families through poor living conditions and lack of access to healthcare. I didn’t consider how the genetics plays a role in this way. I think of genetics and race as having very separate roles in health because i think of race as purely a social construct. However, when you consider that often, racial groups in society live and breed together, this can lead to the genetics of the racial group being similar. Thus, showing patterns of disease and other health issues.

    Racial categories are extremely useful in clinical studies because they allow us to study the effects of culture on health and behaviors. For example we could study the prevalence of diabetes in African Americans in New York City, then from there begin to pick apart the culture of the group to see what could possibly lead to the trend. I think the best way to discuss racialized health disparities are by thinking of race as a group that consistently breeds together or a group from the same geographical area. The social constructs of a group is what leads to differences in disease patterns and life expectancy which can then overall affect genetics over many generations.

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