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BLACK HISTORY MONTH – FROM A HEALTH PERSPECTIVE –

A MESSAGE EXPRESSLY FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN & THE WOMEN WHO LOVE THEM.

 The prostate gland is often the cause of very big problems for men, especially black men. Prostate Cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed forms of cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, when compared with Caucasian males, African American males are diagnosed much later and the mortality rate is 2.4 times higher.  According to many reports, a big part of the problem is a lack of knowledge in the African American community.  At a time when there is a wealth of information available to large segments of the African American community-- why is this so?  Why are African American men less likely to show up for a community education program or access available information on Prostate Health?

Culturally sensitive research has found that the differences in time of diagnosis and the mortality rate between Caucasian and African American males are caused mainly by African American males avoiding prostate screening exams as well as a lack of access to quality medical care.  The five most common barriers to prostate cancer screenings among African American males are all prefaced by the word "lack":

1)       Lack of knowledge about the need for screenings,

2)       Lack of insurance, 3) Lack of finances, 4)  Lack of physicians to contact, and

5)       Lack of culturally sensitive information about the availability of free screenings. 

There is another “lack” that is not often evidenced in the research – that is a lack of confidence in our medical system.  In interviews with many African Americans there is an innate lack of confidence (particularly among some older people) in segments of our medical system. They doubt that it will provide the best care (or information) possible, and that the lives and well-being of black people are as valued.  While many readers will recoil at this, it nevertheless is a reality for those who hold this belief.  They can often site circumstances that justify this perception.  While some of those circumstances might not be recent they have placed a mental wedge in the minds of those who hold this belief.  It is one that is not easy to overcome; it takes time, effort and a commitment on the part of all involved to undo the damage of past experiences, and awareness of such occurrences; it could even have been as long as two generations ago!

 Is it possible that this “lack” is mostly due to perception than reality?  Could it be more about what has been in the past versus what it is now? How many African American men seek out information?  How many pay attention when information is being offered? How many respond to invitations to participate in free education programs and free screenings?  These are matter-of-fact questions that need to be addressed honestly. We need to creat a new reality.

We cannot underestimate the psychological impact of the suffering of many African American patients in the hands of culturally insensitive caregivers.  We also need to closely examine medical services offered to black people at inaccessible facilities; this leads to poor attendance rates.  It is often uncomfortable for black men to discuss their medical concerns and questions in unfamiliar situations with culturally insensitive facilitators.  However, there is an urgent need for black people in general, and black men in particular, to take more responsibility in seeking out and accessing medical information.  While it might be true that the “system” is not working as well for black people, it is not the system that is suffering the dire consequences due to late diagnoses, poor health outcomes, draining economics and early death (plus all of the associated concomitant issues).  The best thing we can do for ourselves as black people is to be proactive about health, education and overall well-being.  It is in our own best interest and that of our families to do so.   Please visit OneWorld Progressive Institute’s education web site to see some of our health information videos at: http://www.oneworldpi.org/health/health_videos.html  

Let us strive to make each Black History Month more healthy, prosperous and productive than before.  Let us strive for total emancipation by the year 2019.  Peace

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