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African American Health Disparities

Take a look at this infographic.  Consider the numbers.  What does this say about race and health? About 610,000 people in the United States die of heart disease every year. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in most ethnic groups yet the health disparities for African Americans is cause for even more alarm.  African Americans have the highest prevalence of high blood pressure of any ethnic group which greatly increases the risk for stroke. Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney disease in African Americans. Minorities are affected by all sorts of health care issues that stem from a long history of disadvantage.  Segregation, racism, prejudice, ignorance, white privilege, discrimination, societal institutions, laws, socioeconomics, and more have all contributed to the poor health of many minorities in this country.

Unfortunately, like many societal issues, whether education, economic, legal, the focus tends to be on surface quick solutions rather than looking at the broader and deeper changes that need to happen.  It is easy to find tips to reduce heart disease such as exercise, healthy diets, quit smoking, and regular check-ups.  This is not to say that these tips are not good information but tend to ignore the greater and deeper understanding of the historical, political, socioconomic,  social-environmental and cultural factors that affect African American health.

History in medicine has not been kind to African Americans. Prior to the Civil War, African Americans were dependent upon their owners for healthcare and many received only a minimum amount of care. After the Civil War African Americans were often in separate hospital wards or not even allowed in hospitals. Many African Americans were not allowed into medical schools or if they were doctors already, could not practice in certain hospitals. Throughout much of history many African Americans were subjected to medical experiments, quite often without consent or without being given the full disclosure of the facts of the procedures of which they were participating. Even now with statistics regarding the health of African Americans so in contrast to non-Hispanic Whites, it is evident that segregation still remains. More must be done to reduce these alarming health disparities.

More research needs to be done regarding health conditions of African Americans and other minority groups. Research and clinical care must be done by more diverse professionals who could bring the cultural aspects to their work important to minority populations. Research and clinical care must be done with respect and understanding, with cultural competence of all racial and ethnic groups. African Americans are greatly underrepresented in healthcare so opportunities are needed for education and employment for those in minority populations so they can help bridge that gap and reduce medical mistrust.  A greater understanding of various cultural attitudes, behaviors, customs, practices and beliefs have benefits for all of us when seeking healthcare.  Changes are occurring at NIH and various health care and research institutions but we must all become more conscious about how our society and our health institutions affect those who need it most.

To learn more:

Registration open for the March 7, 2016 forum: Using Data to Improve Clinical Patient Outcomes

When you hear “Big Data” what comes to mind? Research? That’s where the NN/LM focus has been–introducing health sciences librarians to the role they can play in managing and curating research data, introducing health sciences librarians to training resources and tools to teach students and researchers what should be considered when they produce data.

Big data does not just exist in the research setting. There is a lot of patient data that exists in each of our hospitals, medical centers, and healthcare systems. Doesn’t this quantity of patient data qualify it as big data too? Some of us say the answer is, “Yes.”  

On March 7, 2016 the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Northwest (PNR) and MidContinental Regions (MCR) are sponsoring an event that will provide an overview of current and potential uses of patient data to improve patient safety, quality of care and evidence-based practice: Using Data to Improve Clinical Patient Outcomes. Read more »

Resource Guides on Recent Public Health Incidents

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) recently developed resource lists for three public health emergencies affecting both local and global communities. An incident Web page was created to gather resources on the emerging health issues arising from the Zika Virus. Two PDF documents on recent chemical incidents have been updated.  Links to these lists are included below and also can be found on our NLM Disaster Health home page. Read more »

Nominations Sought for the Michael E. DeBakey Library Services Outreach Award

From the Friends of the National Library of Medicine:

The Friends of the National Library of Medicine ( seek your nominations for this year’s Michael E. DeBakey Library Services Outreach Award.


  • Nominees must be currently employed as a health sciences librarian and have worked in such a position for at least five years immediately preceding the award.
  • The nomination may be made for contributions by the librarian as demonstrated by excellence and achievement in leadership, publications, teaching, research, special projects or any combination of these.
  • Nominations must be in writing and contain at least the following elements:
    • The official nomination form
    • A precise description of the nominee’s achievements, no more than 5 pages please
    • A current resume or curriculum vitae
    • Any additional information that would assist the jury in the evaluation of the nomination and selection of the recipient. Please include no more than ten extra pages.
  • Self-nominations are accepted and encouraged.
  • All nominations must be received by May 1, 2016 via mail, fax, or email (details below):

Mail: Friends of the National Library of Medicine

4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 500

Bethesda, MD 20814

Email:, Fax:  301-657-1296

Zika Virus- Travel and Pregnancy Notices

For some of us the Zika virus is something new.  However, it was actually identified in the 1940’s in Uganda. The Zika virus was considered a rare disease primarily located in African countries with a smattering of occurrences in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015 the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert confirming infections in Brazil where it has been noted that over 3,500 babies have been born, since this past May, with microcephaly. It is not known for sure if the Zika virus is responsible for this outbreak of microcephaly but many doctors believe there is a connection. The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that can be transmitted from pregnant mother to baby. Symptoms of the virus are typically mild and include fever, rash, joint pain, headaches, and red eyes which lasts from a few days to a week. The virus has not been reported in the United States except through returning travelers though just last week health officials in Hawaii reported a recent birth in which a  baby with microcephaly had been infected with the virus whose mother had been in Brazil last May. The Zika virus is spreading throughout the Americas and was reported in Puerto Rico this past December. Because there is no known treatment or vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a health advisory for travelers to 14 countries and territories in the Americans where Zika has been reported and has developed interim guidelines for pregnant women or wish to become pregnant who are considering travel to areas with outbreaks of Zika virus.

Read more »

PNR Partners webinar January 28

Date: Thursday, January 28

Time: 1:00 pm PT, Noon Alaska Time, 2:00 pm MT

Join us to hear from two of our recipients who each received PNR Health Disparities Information Outreach funding. In, Somali Cultural Profile Project: Collaborating to Update Information about Culture and Health Disparities in the Somali Community, Christine Wilson Owens will describe the partnership and work of EthnoMed and the King County Somali Health Board in reviewing and enhancing the Somali Cultural Profile and Somali Community Resources pages on the EthnoMed website. (For those who may not be familiar with EthnoMed it is an online resource for healthcare providers serving immigrant and refugee patients.) Collaboratively, EthnoMed and the Somali Health Board pulled in community voices and health care provider perspectives to document information about the culture and the health experience of Somali immigrants in the Seattle area, with particular focus on highlighting health disparity issues affecting this immigrant community.

Library Services Manager at Tuality Healthcare, Judith Hayes had a unique feature to her project titled, Increasing Health Disparity and Resource Awareness at Tuality Healthcare. Tuality Healthcare’s Cultural Diversity Task Force collaborated with People, Places, Things to bring a dynamic, hands-on workshop to demonstrate techniques for facilitating critical information transfer across language divides. Vignettes were used to demonstrate sources of disparity and possible sources of resources and resolution. The one-hour presentations were designed jointly by Tuality and Teatro Milagro to address Tuality’s Specific Situation. The goals were to increase awareness of health disparities in the Tuality service area, increase awareness of available resources to help address health and cultural disparity issues at Tuality, and to improve the level of understanding between staff and clients of different cultural backgrounds.

Listening to the successes and challenges of these particular programs can inspire and generate energy to create your own program or adapt these and other funded projects to your own organization’s needs.  Read more »