In a Race to Good Health

Many believe that there is a strong correlation between race and health, but in all actuality, the two are not related.

Race is different from a biological perspective than from a social perspective. Biologically race among humans does not exist. Humans are part of one race because all humans can interbreed with one another and their offspring can do the same. Race is a socially constructed matter. The creation of race aimed to separate people into groups with others that relate the most to them. The belief in polygenesis, the creation of different species by God for different reasons, also encouraged separation using race. Throughout history there were many ways humans separated themselves into different races, but today it is predominately done by the color of skin. This is inaccurate because there is more variation within a group of people than variation among other groups For example, if a person is African American, he or she might have more in common with a person who is Latino than a person who is African American. It is not correct to conclude that because a person is from the same “race” as a different person, he or she shares more in common with that person than any other. Because of these differences, it is not justifiable to conclude that race and health are related.

Ethnicity refers to a person cultures, customs and, often, lifestyle (Teng). This influences someone’s health more than race does. The choices a person makes and the lifestyle he or she choses to live can have a major effect on health. These choices can be the way a person eats and the activities they partake in (Teng). In the short video, “Becoming American,” a doctor investigates why Latinos in a certain area have better health than people surrounding them. It turns out that Latinos are very family oriented. Unlike the average American, the Latinos spend more time with family. This caused a lowered amount of stress among Latinos.

In the lecture video, sickle cell anemia and malaria were mentioned. These diseases are related to the ancestry of a person. Ancestry refers to where a person’s family is from, which gives clues about or his or her genetic make up (Teng). A person with ancestry in Africa has a higher chance of acquiring diseases such as sickle cell anemia and malaria than people who do not.

In conclusion, the race in which an individual identifies will does not correlate with one’s health. It is the persons ethnicity and ancestry that can predict certain health outcomes of  a person.

 

Teng, Kathryn, MD. “How Your Ancestry and Ethnicity Affect Your Health – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. March 10, 2014. Accessed July 08, 2016. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/03/how-your-ancestry-and-ethnicity-affect-your-health/.

6 thoughts on “In a Race to Good Health

  1. Hi Lauren! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. It seems as though you now have a very good understanding of race in relation (or non relation) to health. I like that you mentioned the fact that there is more variation within a perceived race than between them. I learned this fact in a class I took last semester about race and ethnicity and found the fact fascinating. We watched a video that showed students of different races taking a test to see who they were most closely related to genetically in the world and all of them were shocked at the results. Not one of them matched up with someone of their own race.
    I also liked your discussion of ethnicity playing a bigger factor in someone’s health than race. It makes sense that since the Latinos were more family oriented than other individuals in the area, they were healthier because of a lower amount of stress. Learning information like this is so interesting to me because it seems amazing that just living in an environment that values family togetherness can increase one’s health.
    Great blog post! I look forward to reading more of your interpretations of class materials in the future.

  2. Hey Lauren I loved reading your post! I really liked the point you made about the movie “Becoming American” where they found that Latinos have lower stress levels due to increased family interaction. I think that is something all Americans should learn to assimilate. I definitely agree an individuals’ ethnicity or ancestry is much more important than a persons “race”. A persons ethnicity which is their culture, customs, beliefs, and traditions, is more accurate at determining their health. The concept of race has been invented in order society to remain prejudiced without having to feel guilty. It’s simply a system of separation of cultures. Ethnicity defines the foods we eat and the type of lifestyle choices we might make. I found it interesting that we learned an individual from Africa is more susceptible to diseases such as sickle cell anemia and malaria. That really shows that ancestry plays much more of key role in the acquisition of disease than any race influences. Overall I really loved reading your post, I thought you really had some good information from the lecture tied in. I can truly say I look forward to reading one of your future posts and sharing my thoughts.

  3. I agree with your statement saying that “race is different from a biological perspective than from a social perspective.” I think the fact that “race” is a socially constructed matter, and nothing more than that, is something people need to be more aware of. I like that you addressed that ethnicity can influence health more than race. This makes sense since ethnicity refers to a person’s cultures, customs, and lifestyle, like you said. Lifestyle is a huge factor on health and people of different ethnicities may have differences in their lifestyles than people of other ethnicities. These lifestyle differences are what would be affecting health the most. I also like the fact that you related ancestry to health and disease risks, as most of us probably did not. This was a very good point to make because, in the long run, ancestry and genetic makeup is what is going to affect a person’s health greatly. A person’s ancestry is something that has to do with geography of their ancestors and which diseases were most common in each ancestor’s geographic regions. I thought it was really smart to include the aspect of ancestry within your blog post. It seems like you have a great understanding of all of the activities and aspects of health, race, and ethnicity that we focused on this week!

  4. Hi Lauren, you did a great job with your analysis! I had very similar thoughts as you after this week’s assignment. It is such an important fact to make it known that race is not biologically defined. It still puzzles me that it took me 13 years in school to be exposed to that fact. I remember being so surprised learning that race is a social construct not a genetic one that I thought my professor was wrong. I did research on my own to find confirmation of this idea. It makes me wonder how things would be different if the idea of race ceased to exist in regard to health practices.
    I am interested in the video source you cited, Becoming American. You mentioned Latinos were found to have lower stress levels because they have larger family interactions. I think that is an interesting finding and a springboard to many other topics of discussion. The role family can have on a person is huge! It can be positive or negative. Just today I witnessed the positive effect of family on a friend of mine. She is a young mother to be and has had a huge stress relief of childcare lifted from her by her sister-in-law. Family can help reduce stress, which is known to increase anxiety, among other health related problems. It would be beneficial for more Americans to adopt this strong sense of family connection.

  5. Hi Lauren! I really agree with what you said about not defining people by their skin color. Just because you have a certain skin color does not mean that correlates with your personality, interests, or behavior. I also agree with you that ethnicity can affect health. I think it is something people look past a lot and just continue to use the word race instead of ethnicity, even though they are not interchangeable. I think it is important that more people- especially those that plan on working with people- understand that race is not real, and what really makes us all unique. Not only do I believe that this would lead to a better understanding and overall more knowledge, but it also might help decrease tension between different groups of people. I would love to learn more about how ethnicity is linked to health and different diseases. I am very interested in the medical field, which sparked me to take this class, and I am excited to learn about it all from this perspective. Great job on your post, I really enjoyed it!

  6. Hi Lauren!
    I really enjoyed many of the thoughts offered in your post. I thought the part of the lecture where we talked about how if two living things can interbreed was interesting and helps to clear up the idea of what race is. I found that simple to explain to people as well. I was telling a friend about that and used an example of a goldfish and an elephant. Two very obvious creatures which could not interbreed. I think a visual like that is helpful when explaining this concept to others. I also thought the idea about polygenesis was very interesting. I had grown up going to church and catechism (a church based class for children) and throughout all of these teachings had never learned that. I guess it might only be for certain religions or may be outdated in the teachings but I was surprised I had never heard of it. I find it funny how people can twist and turn religion to justify anything. I really like learning about ethnicity. When you said the choices they make and the lifestyle they live can have major effects it made me think of how our choices and lifestyles are often formed by our family histories which also then can tie closely into our health. Overall, very insightful post! Good job!
    -Rachel

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