Health disparities involve inequalities that exist in health care provision based on race, gender, ethnic group, resident, and socioeconomic groups. The inequalities in health can determine how frequent certain diseases can affect certain groups of people. In the US, health disparities have become a problem among ethnic groups, which include African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic. Lack of multicultural approach on health issues has led to the widening of health disparities among various ethnic groups in the US. However, community-based treatment and culturally-based strategies can assist in dealing with health disparities among ethnic groupings. This study will focus on health disparities, especially among African Americans, as well as cultural beliefs, and strategies to minimize health disparities among African Americans.
Health Disparities among African Americans
The US has become a multicultural society due to the presence of immigrants from different countries, who enter the country in search of better living standards. Health disparities focus on racial or ethnic discrepancies in health care provision due to factors not related to access. Factors, such as infant mortality rates, poverty, levels of income, educational levels, and language barriers, have influenced health care provision, leading to disparities. Although life expectancy has risen among African Americans in the 20th century, they have continued to carry more burdens of death, illnesses, and disabilities than any other ethnic group in the US. Historically, statistics have demonstrated that racial and ethnic groups in the US have suffered unequal diabetes burden (Moussa, Sherrod & Jeungok, 2012). The rate of diabetic attack among African Americans stands higher than any other ethnic group due to poverty levels, as most of them cannot afford to seek treatment.
The health status of many African Americans has continued to become worse due to lack of trust in health care system. Most African Americans still believe that they cannot receive same treatment as the white people. A significant number of health behaviors among African Americans have led to other socioeconomic conditions, such as substance disorders, heart diseases, HIV/AIDS, unemployment, and severe mental illnesses. Poverty has made it difficult to control the spread of diabetes among this group. According to Moussa, Sherrod and Jeungok (2012), death rates among African Americans due to diabetes is quite higher compared to other communities while those who earn annual income that does not exceed $45,000 are also in danger of getting diabetes.
Pharmacological Treatment Plans for African Americans
Pharmacological treatment involves appropriate prescription of drugs to diabetic patients. It is essential to look for appropriate treatment to reduce or eliminate the disease, as this is one way of fighting health disparities. Several pharmacological treatments exist in the management of diabetes, but the most common for type 1 diabetes is insulin. Insulin resistance is common among African Americans, making pharmacological intervention difficult to implement (Marshall, 2005). According to Marshall (2005), metformin is recommendable to type 2 diabetes. However, treatment regimens for type 2 diabetes should be individualized, as therapeutic needs rise with the duration of the disease.
One limitation of pharmacological treatment is that some patients may develop psychological and cognitive problems, making it hard to respond to treatment. Dietary management is vital for people suffering from type 2 Diabetes, but most African American families cannot afford appropriate diet due to poverty. Some have become obese due to consumption of cheap fast foods while others do not follow prescriptions for health care providers.
Other Factors that influence Health Disparities
Health disparities can be influenced by cultural values, socio-economic position, as well as traditional beliefs and practices. In rural settlements, particularly where the level of income is extremely low, health care providers encounter challenges of traditional cultures, such as healing from herbs, leaves, and roots. Socio-economic status is usually associated with racism. Racial differences have contributed to health inequality, as most African Americans do not receive the same medical attention as the Whites. African Americans suffering from diabetes are less likely to intensify their treatment to enhance glycaemic control (Marshall, 2005). Low-income groups among African Americans usually complain that they are not satisfied with the current health care status. Low levels of education make most of them seek medical attention when the disease is already at an advanced stage.
Strategy to Improve Pharmacological Treatment Plans
Health care providers have to work hard to overcome the challenge of improving the health outcomes among African Americans. Health disparities can only be eliminated through training health care professionals on various cultural needs. A culturally sensitive strategy can assist in improving pharmacological treatment, in addition to improving health care outcomes. Nurses need to be trained about different cultures in order to offer optimum patient care, as patients have different health beliefs that require different approaches of treatment (Tuohy, McCarthy, Cassidy & Graham, 2008).
A culturally sensitive strategy can be enhanced by cultural competency. Cultural competency is vital in the understanding of treatment in diverse setting, as health care professionals can formulate appropriate interventions to facilitate optimal health among different cultural groups (Eshleman & Davidhizar 2006). Nurses must acknowledge and respect diverse cultures, which is essential in ensuring that patients receive treatment within their cultural environment. A community-based intervention strategy is crucial for treating diabetes as it promotes behavioral change among African Americans, in addition to offering supportive environment.
Racial and ethnic inequalities are distressing facets in health care among most American people. Research has demonstrated that African Americans encounter poor quality of health care compared to other ethnic groups in the US. In particular, they have a high risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes due to poor glycaemic control, as well as inequalities in health care system. Lack of trust from medical professionals discourages African Americans from seeking treatment, which includes injection of insulin and metformin. Poverty, low education levels, and cultural values, also influence health disparities. Understanding individual needs is fundamental in handling patients from diverse culture. Health care professionals should be trained on how to handle patients from different cultural backgrounds to encourage them to seek medical attention.
Eshleman, J., & Davidhizar, R.E. (2006). Strategies for Developing Cultural Competency in an RN-BSN Program. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 17(2), 179-183.
Marshall, M. C. (2005). Diabetes in African Americans. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 81, 734-740. Doi: 10.1136/pgmj.2004.028274
Moussa, M. L., Sherrod, D., & Jeungok, C. (2012). Use of E-Health to Improve Health Literacy and Decrease Health Disparities Among Diabetic African Americans. Journal Of Best Practices In Health Professions Diversity: Education, Research & Policy, 5(1), 739-756.
Tuohy, D., McCarthy, J., Cassidy, I., & Graham, M.M. (2008). Educational needs of nurses when nursing people of a different culture in Ireland. International Nursing Review 55, 164–170.