BLACK DEATH

Part 1
Our Underlying Health Concerns

In the 1300s, the Black Death – also known as the Great Plague – wiped out approximately 100 million people across the world. It represented the most devastating pandemic in the history of the world. 

Fast-forward to 2020 and the latest global pandemic, the 2019-20 coronavirus – better known as COVID-19 – is making its way across the United States, Europe and other regions across the world. 

And while world citizens are not succumbing to COVID-19 at anywhere near the rate of the Black Death, black people in America have been disproportionately affected by the disease to the point where Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addressed the matter at a White House press conference last week.

Here is the key part of Dr. Fauci’s address:

“Health disparities have always existed for the African American community, but here again, with the crisis now, it’s shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is,” Dr. Fauci said. “Because yet again, when you have a situation like the coronavirus, they are suffering disproportionately. It’s not that they’re getting infected more often. It’s that when they do get infected, their underlying medical conditions – the diabetes, the hypertension, the obesity, the asthma – those are the kinds of things that wind them up in the ICU and ultimately give them a higher death rate.”

In addition, ABC News did a lengthy segment on the effects of COVID-19 in the black community, featuring commentary from NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Chief Deputy of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

Dr. Fauci and former United States Global AIDS Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx – who is now serving on the White House Coronavirus Task Force alongside Fauci – both cite underlying health concerns in the black community as the key reason for COVID-19 affecting African Americans in a deadlier fashion.

Let’s analyze four of the major health concerns that are making the COVID-19 battle more difficult for African Americans:

DIABETES


What is diabetes? 

According to the Diabetes Research Institute, “Diabetes is a serious condition that causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when your body cannot make or effectively use its own insulin, a hormone made by special cells in the pancreas called islets (eye-lets). Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the sugar (glucose) from the food you eat to enter. Then, your body uses that glucose for energy.”

Essentially, diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t have the ability to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood. 

What causes diabetes? 

According to the Mayo Clinic: “The underlying cause of diabetes varies by type. But, no matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in your blood. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to serious health problems.”

How does diabetes affect the black community?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, “African American adults are 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician.” 

In addition, “In 2017, African Americans were twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes.”

HYPERTENSION


What is hypertension?

Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. 

The Mayo Clinic describes hypertension as, “High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.”

Essentially, blood pressure is the force at which blood hits your artery walls, and hypertension is when your heart is having to work significantly harder to circulate blood through your blood vessels because of narrower arteries.

What causes hypertension?

Many things can cause hypertension, including smoking, obesity, a salty diet, obesity and stress.

How does hypertension affect the black community?

According to the American Heart Association, “The prevalence of high blood pressure (or hypertension) in African-Americans in the United States is among the highest in the world. More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African-American men and women have high blood pressure. For African-Americans, high blood pressure also develops earlier in life and is usually more severe.

OBESITY


What is obesity?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness.” 

Calculate your BMI

Class 1 obesity is a BMI of 30 < 35. Class 2 obesity is a BMI of 35 < 40. Class 3 obesity, or extreme obesity, is a BMI of 40 or above. 

What causes obesity?

In short, obesity is caused by the combination of eating too much and not doing enough physical activity. 

How does obesity affect the black community?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, obesity affects black women at an alarming rate. 

“African American women have the highest rates of obesity or being overweight compared to other groups in the United States. About 4 out of 5 African American women are overweight or obese. In 2018, African American women were 50 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white women. In 2018, African Americans were 20 percent less likely to engage in active physical activity as compared to non-Hispanic whites.

ASTHMA


What is asthma?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.”

What causes asthma?

The cause of asthma is unclear, but it is partially genetic and partially due to the environment.

How does asthma affect the black community?

Asthma is another condition that affects minorities disproportionately, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, which says, “African Americans and Hispanics are the largest minority groups in the United States. These groups have the highest rate of asthma. Minorities have the highest asthma death rate. They also have the highest number of emergency room visits and hospital stays due to asthma. African Americans and Puerto Ricans are three times more likely to die from asthma than whites.”

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