With the launch of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative in 2014, many of the issues facing young African American men suddenly hit the front pages. However, there has been an unfortunate tendency to look at African American men’s health issues as narrowly affecting only that particular group. The reality is quite different. Health problems affecting African-American men may also have a profound impact on health outcomes for African-American women and children. Consequently, it is critical that healthcare professionals—and society as a whole—start paying more attention to minority men’s health.
Why it Matters
In 2010, U.S. Census Bureau reported that life expectancy at birth for white females was 81.3 years and for black females, 78 years. For males, however, life expectancy was 76.5 years for whites, 71.8 years for blacks. Those numbers vary greatly by region. In Fulton County Georgia, for example, which comprises most of the city of Atlanta where I life and work, the average African American male life expectancy remains below 65 years—too young to collect social security. According to the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, African American males constituted only 24% of the population but 42% of all premature deaths and 50% of all years of potential life lost.
Nine of the ten leading causes of death (as defined by CDC) affect men more than women. Eight of those ten affect African Americans more than whites. African American men as a group are at extraordinarily high risk of illness and death. That impacts the African-American community at many levels, and limits the overall potential for health in the African American community.