Most of my EMS career, I have worked in areas that are predominately black. If I wanted to get a head start on my run forms, I could check heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes for medical history and be right a large portion of the time. I have always thought that black people were biologically predisposed to these terrible diseases. However, I have learned that I was wrong. Black people are at a higher risk for these diseases not based on genes, but based on social factors. Poverty, poor nutrition, lack of access to health care, employment and opportunity discrimination all contribute to a black person’s risk for getting the diseases, in the same way they would contribute to a white person’s chances of getting the diseases if they faced similar obstacles.
Check out this talk by Dorothy Roberts, University of Pennsylvania civil rights sociologist, and law professor.
If we made make progress against these diseases, we need to address and fix the social factors.