Health Disparities and a Call for Health Justice: The Impact of Health Disparities Hit Home

The effects of stress are further contributors to health disparities especially among racial and ethnic minorities.

Jocelyn R. Smith in the American Journal of Public Health examined what it meant for young black men in Baltimore Maryland to lose so many peers to homicide, and stress that induces.  She concluded her study by commenting that:

“Beyond documenting the disparity of homicide death among Black male victims, I uncovered the prevalence of traumatic loss among their surviving networks. Participants disclosed experiencing an average of 3 homicide deaths, revealing a multiplicity of losses that were often masked in the singular status of the homicide survivor. The majority of decedents were peers.”

She documents the response of Niko, age 18 and a 4 time homicide survivor who said:

“What does it mean to me? Well, it just makes me lose friends. I’m losing friends cause my friends is getting killed—some of my close friends—and then, it just, like, be nothing else left. If I ain’t got no friends then like what I’m supposed to do? I just sit in the house now. It’s no friends that I have.”

Dr. Smith also recorded the thoughts of Antwon, 17 years old who lost his best friend and 3 close peers to murder all in the same year:

“It’s disturbing. It really make you think . . . like you’ll be here one second and the next second you can be gone. Like it made me think about my life, you feel me, the value of my life, and people around me, and things happening to people around me—’Cause in 2011, a lot of people had passed . . . and I was just thinking like can one of us be next? Or somebody else in my family? Somebody I’m really close to?”

The American Psychological Association reviews the role of chronic stressors in Health Disparities Among Racial/Ethnic Groups: “Racial and ethnic minorities have health that is worse overall than the health of White Americans. Health disparities may stem from economic determinants, education, geography and neighborhood, environment, lower-quality care, inadequate access to care, inability to navigate the system, provider ignorance/bias and/or stress (Bahls, 2011).  Studies examining the role of social and biological stress on health suggests a link between socioeconomic status and ethnic disparities in stress and health (Warnecke et al, 2008). Some ethnic/racial groups are more economically disadvantaged and may be more susceptible to SES-related stress.”

According to the CDC “Among 10 to 24 year-olds, homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans; the second leading cause of death for Hispanics; and the third leading cause of death American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

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