Sickle Cell Anemia amongst African American

The health disparity I chose was sickle cell anemia. I  think it is so prevalent among African Americans because of genetics. Sickle cell anemia is a group of disorders that affects the hemoglobin molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells throughout the body. People with this disorder have atypical hemoglobin molecules called hemoglobin S, which can distort red blood cells into a sickle, or crescent, shape. More than two million Americans carry the  sickle cell trait. The condition occurs in about one  in five hundred black or African American births. Sickle cell anemia is most common in people whose families come from Africa, South or Central America (especially Panama), Caribbean islands, Mediterranean countries (such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy), India, and Saudi Arabia. In the United States, it’s estimated that sickle cell anemia affects 70,000–100,000 people, mainly African Americans. The reason why sickle cell seem to be more common in blacks is due to the fact that those geographic regions are most prone to malaria and the gene variant for sickle cell disease is related to malaria.

I believe that race, genetics and health have a lot in common. All three of these things have an  influence on our risk that we will acquire a specific disease or heath condition. In the article “How Race becomes Biology: Embodiment of Social Inequalities”  on the section with epidemiologist it is mentioned that there is a lot of evidence of health inequalities among racially defined groups in many societies. I took that to mean that some diseases depend of the racial group. Some diseases are more common in one race than another due to genetics. Race is important because although any race can carry the sickle cell trait this condition is most common in African Americans. Genetics is important for this disease because  sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation in the b globin gene. Genetics increases or decreases the risk of sickle cell based off of an individual family history.  Having this genetic disease leads to the individual health outcome



“Sickle Cell Disease”. Race-Health connections. Accessed on July 8, 2014

“Sickle Cell Disease” Genetics Home Reference. .  last modified on August 2012. Accessed on July 8, 2014

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Sarah Newman says:


    I really liked your post! One idea I might add, as stated in lecture, is that race is not genetically defined. Because someone identifies with the African American race does not mean that all African American’s have the same genetics towards a disease. I think that race is usually determined by social-economical factors.I hypothesize that due to the surrounding environment and cultural practices, someone becomes more predisposed to certain diseases, such as when living in West Africa someone has a higher chance of getting malaria due to unsafe water. I think because people usually live and coexist with others that they identify with, like their same race, certain groups become predisposed to specific illnesses and disease. I guess I really did not think about how different genetic mutations can lead to predisposition to certain diseases based on race. However, it is important to point out that every race has a chance of getting every genetic disease; it is due to evolutionary genetics that different races are most susceptible to these genetic illnesses and disorders than others.

    I believe that racial categories are very useful for clinical studies. it is important to me to know what I am at greater risk for and how I can avoid getting the disease. It is also very important in evaluating how diseases change and how certain diseases spread out in the entire American population. One idea I would like to see used in these clinical studies is what social, ecological, cultural, economical factors play into why a certain race was more at risk for a certain disease.

  2. holechri says:

    I spent a lot of time for a previous anthropology class about race and genetics. Certain diseases such as sickle-cell are much more prevalent in the black community, that is for certain according to manny different researchers, however this is more due to adaptations from ages ago in the development of humans in Africa over centuries. So, I guess my thoughts are that genetics in race and disease don’t have a relation much of the time. As for the times that they do, it would be due to the geographical location as opposed to color of skin. As for the sake of clinical studies, I think that it is not a terrible thing for categorization’s sake and for making a point in order to support one’s research. For the graph that is posted, I feel that the one addition that could make it more intensive and worth while to get a deeper understanding of the issue is that it could have added another series of categories showing where the people hailed from in terms of nations (or shown the initial percentage in the US and followed up that bar with the different locations through the world they stem from for that matter).

  3. sarah rousakis says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post and specifically your discussion of how diseases such as malaria and sickle cell anemia are highly prevalent (in certain regions such as Africa and South and Central America), because of location, and in this particular case, are not solely based on genetics or race. Those living in the poorer areas of Africa, South and Central America, are exposed to mosquitos that are vectors for malaria and are unable to be properly treated because of where they live and do not have the same access to medical care. In the case of sickle cell, being a genetic disease, that will be passed on from generation to generation, and location does not play a huge role in this scenario. As far as the definitions of race and genetics, I wrote that genetics and race are somewhat similar terms and are interconnected in their definition. Genetics can be defined through one’s genes-what makes up a particular person. Our genes are what give us the distinct pigment of our skin, and the color of our skin is how we classify one’s race. Race is a category based on how one looks on the outside. Race can also define a specific culture or way of life. I think that racial categories are so important in clinical studies because they allow one to observe and report trends of diseases. Once we know the trends and which race/ethnicity is more susceptible to a certain disease, then we will hopefully be able to treat more people. More importantly, we will be able to get to those people who are termed “at risk” before they are diagnosed with the disease, and may be able to prevent them from developing the disease in the first place. Racial categorizing is extremely critical for preventing diseases and managing the symptoms of those who have already been diagnosed.

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