Community Health & Population Sciences

My Message to African American Men: There’s No Shame in Seeking Help with Mental Health

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By David E. Marion, Ph.D.
Licensed Professional Counselor, and Marriage and Family Therapist
Grand Basileus
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Growing up, in my community, it was frowned upon to ask for help outside of your family. You were forbidden to talk to non-family members about your feelings and especially forbidden to talk about what was going on in your house. There was the inaccurate perception that counseling was for “White folks.” If you needed counseling or medication, that meant to the world you were “crazy,” a layman’s term incorrectly used to label many mental health conditions and challenges. In all my years of counseling, I have never seen the term “crazy” in any diagnostic manual. Continue reading “My Message to African American Men: There’s No Shame in Seeking Help with Mental Health”

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Breastfeeding Disparities in African American Women

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By Regina Smith James, M.D.
Director, Clinical and Health Services Research
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Regina Smith James

Dr. Regina Smith James

Some say the best things in life are free…but are they really? Well, when it comes to providing our babies with the best nutrition ever, breastfeeding is not only economical, but it has positive health effects for both baby and mom. Did you know that breast milk is uniquely suited to your baby’s nutritional needs, with immunologic and anti-inflammatory properties? Yes, it’s true! And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, with gradual introduction of solid foods after 6 months while continuing to breastfeed up to 1 year.

What are some of the health benefits of breastfeeding? Breast milk not only offers a nutritionally balanced meal, but some studies suggest that breastfeeding may even reduce the risk for certain allergic diseases, asthma, and obesity in your baby, as well as type 2 diabetes in moms. Also, breastfeeding creates a close bond between mother and child. And from a financial standpoint, breastfeeding is economical. The United States Breastfeeding Committee noted that families who followed optimal breastfeeding practices could save approximately $1,500 that would have gone toward infant formula in the first year alone. Imagine what you could do with those extra dollars!

Continue reading “Breastfeeding Disparities in African American Women”

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Minorities and Mental Health: Moving Beyond Stigma

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By Courtney Ferrell Aklin, Ph.D.
Chief of Staff, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

By Marcia M. Gómez, M.D.
Health Science Policy Analyst, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Dr. Courtney Ferrell Aklin

   Dr. Courtney Ferrell Aklin

Demographic trends in the United States have continued to change rapidly. Projections indicate that within the next 30 years, the majority of the United States will be non-White.1 Among the racial and ethnic groups that will make up the majority, there is significant heterogeneity, making healthcare delivery even more challenging.

Mental illness is one of the most prevalent health problems in the United States and one of the most taxing on the healthcare system. In addition, mental illness carries the highest disease burden among all diseases, with devastating effects on daily functioning; personal, social, and occupational impairment; and premature death if left untreated.2 One in 10 children and one in five adults are affected by mental illness.3

Continue reading “Minorities and Mental Health: Moving Beyond Stigma”

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Health Disparities Among American Indians and Alaska Natives: Enormous Hurdles and Opportunities to Advance Health Status

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By Linda Burhansstipanov, M.S.P.H., Dr.P.H.
Founder, Native American Cancer Research Corporation and President, Native American Cancer Initiatives, Inc., Pine, Colorado

Linda U. Krebs, RN, Ph.D., AOCN, FAAN
Associate Professor (retired), College of Nursing, University of Colorado at Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus

American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) have long experienced lower health status than other U.S. populations do. AI/ANs born in 2011 have a lower life expectancy than all other U.S. populations (73.7 years vs. 78.1 years).[1] The poverty level among AI/ANs is nearly twice that of the overall U.S. population, and only half as many AI/ANs have health insurance.

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Dr. Linda Burhansstipanov

The socioeconomic conditions where people live and work have a substantial influence on health, and effects are cumulative over a lifetime.[2],[3] In the United States, educational attainment and income are the indicators most commonly used to measure the effect of socioeconomic status on health.3 Compared with other populations, AI/ANs are more likely to have lower socioeconomic status and to live in poverty, leading to less access to cancer prevention and screening and other healthcare services. Additionally, 20 percent of AI/ANs have not completed high school, compared with 8 percent of non-Hispanic Whites. Not completing high school has been associated with unhealthy and risk-taking behaviors.

Continue reading “Health Disparities Among American Indians and Alaska Natives: Enormous Hurdles and Opportunities to Advance Health Status”

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Mental Health Risk Factors and Interventions for American Indian and Alaska Native People

By Spero M. Manson, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry; Director, Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health; and The Colorado Trust Chair in American Indian Health and Associate Dean for Research at the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver

Over the past 20 years, as research on alcohol, drug, and mental health disorders has advanced, scientific inquiry among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people has shifted from a primary focus on describing the prevalence of such problems to explorations of ways to address well-documented health disparities.

smmanson_portraitOne example involves detecting and managing depression and subsequent alcohol and substance abuse, risk of suicide, and, more recently, trauma among patients in large primary care settings operated by tribal health programs. In 2001, the Southcentral Foundation’s Primary Care Center in Anchorage, Alaska, initiated Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral for Treatment (SBIRT) among Alaska Native patients age 18 and older.1 Their efforts, which integrated masters-level behavioral health clinicians within the care teams, demonstrated that such evidence-based practices could be tailored to this population in scientifically sound and clinically meaningful ways.2 Over a 5-year period beginning in 2004, 55 percent of the 8,000 patients who scored positive for alcohol use disorder agreed to follow-up treatment. Thanks to those results, the state of Alaska authorized Medicaid reimbursement for SBIRT, leading to the service becoming fully self-sustainable. This approach has been expanded to other tribal primary care settings in Alaska and in rural, reservation, and urban clinics in the lower 48 states. It now includes AI/AN youth ages 12 to 17 and covers other conditions, notably suicide risk and trauma.3

Continue reading “Mental Health Risk Factors and Interventions for American Indian and Alaska Native People”

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