Diversity in Genetics

Diversity in Genetics

What are the challenges African Americans face and how as a coach do you address race and genetic challenges that others may not face?

Happy Black History Month! While Black History month is a (short) time to recognize people of African American descent and their accomplishments, it can also be a time to be more aware about African Americans predisposition to certain diseases and health issues.  As health coaches, I feel the best way to deal with culturally diverse individuals is by being observant, gentle and sensitive.

Specifically with African Americans, the reality is there are many diseases and health conditions that more commonly affect the race. Statistically,

  • Diabetes is 60% more common in black Americans than in white Americans. Blacks are up to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a limb amputation and up to 5.6 times more likely to suffer kidney disease than other people with diabetes.
  • African-Americans are three times more likely to die of asthma than white Americans.
  • Deaths from lung scarring — sarcoidosis — are 16 times more common among blacks than among whites. The disease recently killed former NFL star Reggie White at age 43.
  • Despite lower tobacco exposure, black men are 50% more likely than white men to get lung cancer.
  • Strokes kill 4 times more 35- to 54-year-old black Americans than white Americans. Blacks have nearly twice the first-time stroke risk of whites.
  • Blacks develop high blood pressure earlier in life — and with much higher blood pressure levels — than whites. Nearly 42% of black men and more than 45% of black women aged 20 and older have high blood pressure.
  • Cancer treatment is equally successful for all races. Yet black men have a 40% higher cancer death rate than white men. African-American women have a 20% higher cancer death rate than white women.

While there can be many reasons and explanations as to why certain diseases strike African Americans the way they do (including genetics, socioeconomic status, and racism), our job as health coaches is to relate to the person first and most importantly. We should be open to any issues that a person may indeed feel is related to their race. We should be sensitive to things we don’t understand (like a person’s upbringing, social and economic environment and surroundings) and allow them to be open and honest. We should be observant and recognize where there could be any race related issues.  Not in a way to make a spectacle of the person, but enough to get them to look inside themselves to see where there might be some correlation.

Race and genetics can definitely play a role in some of the health issues that our clients may face. Though it can be important to recognize, I think as long as we show each individual respect, sensitivity, care and concern we will do right by them.  At the end of the day, they are all human beings looking to us to help them get better. Whether it be mind, body or spirit, our goal is to help them achieve their goals and be healthier.

MyHealthStyle Coach Danica Lafortune


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