Discrimination and Health
* In the U.S. we pride our country on being a “melting pot” of different cultures and ethnicity, however, how accepting of these differences are we? A large portion of my class focused on the discriminatory actions taken against minorities. In the article below I discuss how discrimination negatively affects health. If everyone in our culture used ethics and social responsibility there would be a more equal distribution of resources and an increase in health of minorities.
Unfortunately there is noticeable discrimination in America, which causes many side affects for minority groups. Stress, physical well-being, and overall health are negatively affected when groups face inequality. Native American health and infant mortality rates among African Americans are two specific examples of the problems minorities face when they are not given the same opportunities and rights.
The destruction of the Native American food system has undoubtedly created health problems by changing their culture. As discussed in the short clip “Cultural Loss – Impact on Native American Health”, these people no longer have a sense of identity or self-sufficiency, which leads many to depression and alcoholism.
For example, Native Americans used to be self sufficient in food production until changes in the early 20th century caused a decrease in traditional farming. In 1930, the Tohono O’odham produced 1.4 million pounds of tepary beans, an important staple in their natural diet. By 2001, fewer than 100 pounds were produced. These changes were caused by acts supporting racial discrimination. In hindsight we see how boarding schools and relocation programs are wrong and have created lifelong problems. The Surplus Commodity Food Programs allowed for “easy access to processed foods leading people to alter their diets and decrease the amount of traditional foods consumed” (Loss of the Traditional Food System). Health is affected by changes in traditional diets because the population is unaccustomed to the appropriate amount of nutrients. In turn, the diabetes rate has risen to more tan 50%! Unfortunately these natives do not have the traditional knowledge to return to desert foods, and healthy “modern” food is too expensive to purchase. TOCA is working towards improving health by bringing back “desert food, native sports, and cultural arts” (Impacts on Health).
Another example of discrimination and health disparities is seen in the mortality rates in Milwaukee, WI. In 2008, the infant mortality rate for whites was 5.9 per 1,000 births and 13.8 for blacks. We live in a modern society where infant death rates should not be dramatically different. Yet this rate is worse than infant mortality in Botswana. Experts consider infant mortality rate a good indicator of community health, therefore, the black community in Milwaukee has low health. Communities we are raised in shape our health because the community affects our family, what we can eat, access to healthcare, education, and opportunities to exercise. However, “health does not depend on health care alone” as stated in the article “Is stress to blame for preterm birth?” In the article “For Milwaukee’s children, an early grave”, chronic stress of living in poverty with barriers decreasing access to opportunities increases the risk of preterm births.
By getting to the root of the problem, appropriate changes can be made that are specific to the affected groups. Native Americans can relearn native lifestyle traditions and blacks in Milwaukee can receive more education and better jobs and living situations. These groups were easily pushed into their current situation and it will be harder to change their conditions, but it is necessary.