African-Americans face health challenges

written by Rebecca Budde - Feb. 21, 2017

It’s an unfortunate fact that black Americans often have more health-care problems than other ethnic groups. According to the CDC, the life expectancy for the black population is 3.8 years lower than the life expectancy for the white population, which is due to higher death rates from heart disease, cancer, homicide, diabetes and perinatal conditions.

In addition, some cancers are more prevalent in the African-American population and are generally discovered at more advanced stages. "Certain cancers either tend to affect minorities more often or tend to lead to death whereas in other populations, they do not," says SIU physician Dr. Wesley Robinson-McNeese. Dr. McNeese is the associate dean for diversity and inclusion and a professor of internal medicine and medical humanities.

"Minorities tend to suffer health disparities in this country," Dr. McNeese says. "Those are essentially differences in the way diseases present themselves within these populations: the frequency, the intensity of the disease and whether it causes death or not."

Dr. McNeese encourages black Americans to be proactive in their health care. He says they should educate themselves about their health care needs, seek out a personal physician and take advantage of the various health screenings offered in their communities.