Earlier this week, Americans celebrated the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Of his many inspiring speeches, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is probably the most recognizable, striking a chord for equality in the hearts of Americans. King stood before a crowd of over 250,000 people who marched on Washington, D.C. to request change for the nation.
Civil rights changed the face of healthcare
Change occurred as the U.S. altered its way of living. Eventually, integration replaced segregation, but in 1963, at the time of King’s speech, hospitals and wards were still designated as “white” or “colored.”
The late poet Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” The U.S. learned to do — and did — better. However, when it comes to healthcare, a 2018 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that disparities remain along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines.
Could healthcare disparities, which vary by group, account for the African American community’s lack of awareness regarding Alzheimer’s disease (AD)?
According to the report:
“Consistent disparities remain among Blacks and Hispanics compared with non-Hispanic Whites in the:
- Prevalence and incidence of AD,
- Participation in clinical trials,
- Use of medications and other interventions,
- Use of long-term services and supports,
- Healthcare expenditures,
- Quality of care, and
Because AD is more prevalent in the African American community, on a per-capita basis, it is important to consider how disparity affects education about dementia. When it comes to disparities between groups, knowing better will help us to do better.
Risk factors in the African American community
Risk factors associated with AD might be related to vascular conditions in the African American community. For example, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, people with a history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol are twice as likely to develop AD.
African Americans with AD decline more slowly than non-Hispanic whites and survive longer. Treating vascular diseases, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or stroke, may slow the onset of AD. Additionally, vascular research could be a component in finding a cure for AD.
Body mass index (BMI) might also be a risk factor, given the prevalence of obesity in the African American community. According to researchers Lisa L. Barnes and David A. Bennett, African Americans experience “stronger effects of BMI on various conditions, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension. Thus, BMI could represent a compelling link with dementia in this population.”
Addressing the disparity
AD is more prevalent in African Americans, but the demographic is grossly underrepresented in clinical trials. This needs to change, considering the link between genetic differences and patient responses to medications based on race and ethnicity.
Addressing health disparities along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines could prove advantageous in eliminating AD.
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.
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