Diabetes is a serious public health issue, and often seen in the African-American adult population. According to the CDC, African-Americans are twice as likely to have type II diabetes as Caucasians (Diabetes, 2011). This is highly significant, since 90 to 95% of new diabetes cases each year are type II (Diabetes, 2011). There are several reasons for these cases, and genetics is one of them. Additionally, people can develop type II diabetes from obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, age, and poor eating habits. In order to thoroughly address the issue, it is important to look at what African-Americans know and do not know about diabetes, and how they handle the disease if they do develop it or are told they are at risk for developing it. Many of them have pre-diabetes, and can avoid the disease if they are conscientious regarding the choices they make (Agurs-Collins, et al., 1997). While not every African-American adult with pre-diabetes will go on to develop type II diabetes, it is important that they know how to lower their risk and what they can do to keep themselves healthy.
Addressed here will be the traditional healing methods and folklore practiced used by African-Americans, some of which are used to treat and/or heal diabetes. Additionally, health literacy has to be considered. The more people know about health, the healthier they are, in theory. African-Americans who are proactive about their health and who work to learn all they can about it are more likely to avoid type II diabetes, and to keep it under control if they do develop it (Agurs-Collins, et al., 1997). Ways to decrease the health disparity become important in that context, because African-Americans need good healthcare knowledge, but they also need access to proper treatment they can afford from people they can trust. Without receiving all of those things, their risk for diabetes will remain high.
Traditional Healing Methods and Folklore Practices
It is no secret that African-Americans have higher rates of diabetes than Caucasians across all socioeconomic categories (Agurs-Collins, et al., 1997). However, not all of them seek out standard or traditional medical care. There are many traditional health methods and folklore practices that are used by the African-American community in the treatment and/or healing of diabetes. These include four different elements: dreams, ritual, the power of words, and spirituality (Parks, 2007). These elements are used in culture-specific ways by African-Americans who are dealing with chronic conditions such as diabetes. When folk beliefs and traditional healing methods are studied, it is possible to determine how they best relate to the management of chronic disease (Parks, 2007). The more they can be related to disease management, the more they can help people who belong to a particular culture or ethnic group live better lives.
For African-Americans, community, family, and other types of social relationships are traditionally seen to be among the most important coping strategies to help people deal with chronic illness (Parks, 2007). One of the main folklore and/or healing beliefs is prayer. African-Americans as a group are more religious than others, and they are often very dedicated to their beliefs. Through those beliefs, they find patience, comfort, and the opportunity for healing and remaining positive (Parks, 2007). Through self-esteem and positive reinforcement, many African-Americans can better manage chronic conditions because they realize the value of taking care of themselves and they see the value they have to their communities and to the people who care about them. Many African-Americans are interested in and focused on spirituality, and they use ritual as part of the practice of those spiritual beliefs (Parks, 2007). That can keep them thinking positively, and believing that their troubles will pass away or be removed from them if they stay in faith and are true to the things in which they believe (Parks, 2007).
Both dreams and words are very powerful when it comes to beliefs about healing, as well (Parks, 2007). For example, dreams are believed to provide metaphors, information, and truths about a person's condition in the present and in the future (Parks, 2007). The more a person understands about his or her dreams and how they relate to a chronic medical condition or health problem, the more he or she may feel guided to do something about that condition or to perform a particular action in order to ensure a continuation of or a restoration to good health. With that in mind, a person can use words as powerful symbols of what he or she experienced in his or her dreams (Parks, 2007). Words have tremendous power, and positive self-talk has been shown to help people live better lives and even take control over their medical conditions and other issues they face (Parks, 2007). These can all be valuable ways to improve a person's health and/or outlook on a medical condition, but it is generally accepted that traditional and modern treatments are often required and necessary, as well.
The higher education a person has and the more he or she knows and understands about health, the better he or she will be able to handle and manage diabetes. That is one of the reasons that education programs for diabetes are so important, especially in populations that may be underserved by medical care and information (McCleary-Jones, 2011). In a study done by McCleary-Jones (2011), it was found that adult African-Americans who had more knowledge of diabetes took better care of themselves, overall, in relation to their disease. Additionally, self-efficacy was important when it came to how well a person cared for himself or herself when diabetes was part of the equation (McCleary-Jones, 2011). The self-efficacy a person had was particularly related specifically to diabetic foot care, while knowledge in generally was more closely related to overall care in the type II diabetic African-American adult (McCleary-Jones, 2011).
Higher knowledge levels correlated to better care of the feet, the diet, and the amount of exercise the diabetic person was able and willing to get (McCleary-Jones, 2011). This shows that African-Americans who are diabetic can benefit from having more knowledge about their condition, so that they can make better choices for themselves regarding diet, exercise, and other factors that are closely related to the care and management of their condition. Because diabetic people often have specific problems or difficulties that can be attributed to a worsening of their condition, it is very important that anyone who develops type II diabetes is educated on these concerns (McCleary-Jones, 2011). When it comes to the African-American community, opportunities for that education are often lacking (McCleary-Jones, 2011). That can lead to poorer outcomes for African-Americans who have diabetes, as opposed to their Caucasian counterparts.
While health literacy has generally been acknowledged to be significant in the treatment of chronic conditions, it is important to realize that understanding a condition is not the only part of managing it effectively. People who have conditions such as type II diabetes also have to be able to access proper information and medical care, or they will not be successful in the treatment of their condition (McCleary-Jones, 2011). With that in mind, one must consider how health literacy is developed, and what the African-American adult with diabetes does with the health literacy information he or she acquires. If the information is not used, it is of little benefit to the person with the condition (McCleary-Jones, 2011). Health literacy is only the first step toward better treatment of a person's condition.
Decreasing the Health Disparity
There are ways to decrease the health disparities in the African-American community so more people can live better lives (Vaccaro & Huffman, 2012). One of the ways to help people manage diabetes, for example, is through the Affordable Care Act. Having insurance can make a significant difference in whether a person is willing and able to see a doctor about medical conditions or afford medications of any kind (Vaccaro & Huffman, 2012). Seeing a medical professional regularly -- and being able to afford to do so -- is an excellent way to get an education regarding a chronic medical condition, and also an excellent way to monitor it effectively so adjustments can be made as necessary (Baptiste-Roberts, et al., 2007). Unfortunately, many African-Americans do not see the doctor regularly, despite chronic medical conditions (Baptiste-Roberts, et al., 2007). Some of this is cultural in nature, and part of the reason for such a health disparity between African-Americans and Caucasians who have conditions such as diabetes.
A large part of the problem, however, lies in the cost of medical care (Baptiste-Roberts, et al., 2007). With mandated and subsidized insurance, more African-American families will find care for conditions like diabetes more affordable. That will play a role in whether they see the doctor, and how often they do so. Additionally, it will affect what tests they can afford to have and the types of medications they will be able to take for their medical issues (Vaccaro &…