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).