Poverty Major Factor in High Death Rates of Blacks

Death, funeral, burial.  People can relate to the process of losing a loved one and putting them to eternal rest.  In the African American community, it appears that death rates continue to skyrocket above other ethnicities, and recently, in the November edition of the Journal for the Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, evidence shows that impoverished Blacks are dying much more than any other race.

Jessica M. Robbins and David A. Webb of the Meharry Medical College published a study about neighborhood poverty, mortality rates, and excess deaths among African Americans.  The two doctors examined the city of Philadelphia, PA from 1999-2001 using a census tract.  They divided the city into racial/ethnic, gender, and age groups to find out if mortality rates were associated with neighborhood poverty rates.

Philadelphia consisted of 43.4 percent Black and 42.5 percent White people.  Within that population, African-Americans accounted for 58 percent of the Philadelphia population in the highest poverty neighborhoods, while 78 percent of whites lived in low-poverty neighborhoods.  The results revealed that African Americans had the highest mortality rates in high-poverty neighborhoods, which suggests that low socioeconomic status in association with poverty, were major factors in the outcome.

Students at universities near and in major cities voiced their opinions about the status of African Americans and why they think the Black community has not been able to complete revitalization efforts. 

“Unlike Hispanics, who are taught to stick together, African Americans don’t know where they come from,” said Monique Gregory, a junior at Temple University in Philadelphia.  “Philly is so broken-down now because of riots from previous years of black people destroying their own neighborhoods and no one has taken the time to build them back up.”

Others suggest that African Americans in impoverished neighborhoods lose hope in ever getting out and become content with their conditions.

“Poverty can become inherited from past family members,” said Justin Thomas, a senior at Salisbury University in Maryland.  “Some African Americans are born in that way of living, so they think it’s how it’s supposed to be and there is no way out.”

The study did not mention ways that changes could be made to reduce the statistics, but students suggest there is a lack of effort on the government’s behalf, to do something.

“There is a lack of research done on diseases that affect African Americans more than whites, such as sickle cell and high blood pressure, and the lack of new, effective and affordable treatments for these diseases,” said Hosaam Nasser, a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park.

High-poverty communities do not usually enjoy the benefits of healthcare, preventing them from treating illnesses that shorten their lifespan.  Still, some Black students put blame on their own people for not prioritizing their health, as they should, and thus affecting high mortality rates.

“The African American community is dying at higher rates because we don’t take our health as seriously as we should,” said Lauren Stevens, a junior at Howard University.  “If we took the necessary steps, like eating properly, practicing safe sex, and attending regular checkups with the doctor, mortality rates would likely decrease.”

Ultimately, the numbers produced in the study sheds new light on major issues that are contributing in the killing of the Race.