Several deadly diseases strike blacks harder and more often than they do whites.
Fighting back means genetic research. It means changing the system for testing new drugs. It means improving health education. It means overcoming disparities in health care.It means investments targeted to the health of blacks. And the evidence so far indicates that these investments will pay health dividends not just for racial minorities, but for everyone.
Yet we're closer to the beginning of the fight than to the end. Some numbers:
•Diabetes is 60% more common in blacks than in whites.Blacks are up to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a limb amputation and up to 5.6 times more likely to suffer kidney diseases than other people with diabetes.
•The sickle-cell gene has become common in Africa because the sickle-cell trait confers some resistance to falciparum malaria during a critical period of early childhood, favouring survival of the host and subsequent transmission of the abnormal haemoglobin gene.
•Africans are three times more likely to die of asthma than white Americans.
•Deaths from lung scarring -- sacoidiosis-- are 16 times more common among blacks than among whites.
•Despite lower tobacco exposure, black men are 50% more likely than white men to get lung cancer.
•Strokes kill 4 times more 35- to 54-year-old blacks than whites. Blacks have nearly twice the first-time stroke risk of whites.
•Blacks develop high blood pressure earlier in life -- and with much higher blood pressure levels -- than whites. Nearly 42% of black men and more than 45% of black women aged 20 and older have high blood pressure.
•Cancer treatment is equally successful for all races. Yet black men have a 40% higher Cancer death rate than white men. African-women have a 20% higher cancer death rate than white women.
"There are a couple of reasons,"One is that 71% of Africans versus 58% of whites live in communities that violate federal air pollution standards.
Extreme weather creates conditions conducive to outbreaks of infectious diseases,... When illness does strike Africa, a poor infrastructure - marked by poverty, malnutrition, crowded living conditions, limited health care and an unstable political climate - permits disease to spread undaunted.
Genetic differences may also play a role. For example, it is clear that cigarette smoking causes lung disease. Cigarette smoking is declining faster among blacks than among whites -- but blacks still die of lung diseases more frequently than white. This could be due to health care disparities -- blacks may get diagnosed later, when diseases are harder to treat -- but it could also be due to genetic susceptibility.
"The environment is involved, and there is potential genetic susceptibility -- but we also have to talk about the fact that Africans' social and economic status lags behind that of Caucasians.
Therefore we must work towards preventive measures rather than cure.
Like I always say Health is Wealth.
@ Dr Sam.Okoh
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