By Michelle Hinton
You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard that smoking and tobacco use can cause cancer and aggravate other health issues and diseases.
There’s a warning label about the dangers of smoking and use of tobacco products on packages but undoubtedly, we all know someone who has passed away too soon because of chronic diseases or health conditions brought on or complicated by smoking and tobacco use.
It is unfortunate that African Americans and other minorities are disproportionately at risk of dying from chronic diseases such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and emphysema, to name a few, and smoking and use of tobacco products only hinders the outcome. Coupled with this, research has shown that racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive lower-quality health care than whites even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable. Social inequalities, such as discrimination, communication barriers, and provider assumptions, sometimes muddle interactions between patient and physician, contributing to miscommunication or delivery of substandard care.
Overall, African Americans are more likely to die from cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. African American males are about 34 percent more likely to die of cancer than white males; African American females are about 17 percent more likely to die of cancer, compared to white females. And, to make matters worse, according to the US Census Bureau, in 2008, 19 percent of African Americans and 31 percent of Hispanics/ Latinos were uninsured, while only 11 percent of non-Hispanic whites lacked health insurance.
While these statistics are startling and bleak, unfortunately, a disproportionate number of Blacks still don’t take proactive measures to live more healthy lives, and continue to smoke and use tobacco—a habit that can shorten lives by 10 years or more according to the Office of Minority Health. Obesity and inactivity also contribute to poor lifestyles and chronic diseases.
The American Cancer Society is committed to helping people stay well, get well, find cures and fight back. Prevention and early detection are critical to reducing cancer disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. We continue to advocate for removing obstacles to receiving health care services related to cancer prevention to include: early detection, lifestyle and high-quality treatment.
April is National Minority Health Month and National Minority Cancer Awareness Week is April 17-23. Let’s all get involved in bettering our community by doing our part to close the gap on healthcare disparities and provide people with information.
Giving people life-saving information is the impetus behind The American Cancer Society’s 8th Annual Sankofa Health and Wellness Forum. The Forum’s theme “Exercise Your Right to Live” is designed to provide participants with cancer prevention education and other resources to help them understand the importance of embracing healthier lifestyles, providing them with access to various health screenings and providing an environment where individuals can gain knowledge related to cancer prevention and early detection. Best of all, the event is FREE and open to the public.
The merits of exercise, diet, prevention, early detection, and not smoking or using tobacco have been measured and well documented; now we urge you to take control of your life and live your best life! Join us on this journey and “exercise YOUR right to live!”
Michelle Hinton is the Director of Community Partnerships for the American Cancer Society of Wisconsin and an organizational member of the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network. She leads a team of community health partners in coordinating The 8th Annual Sankofa Health and Wellness Forum, “Exercise Your Right to Live” that will be held on Saturday, April 28, 2012, at North Division High School. Registration starts at 7 a.m.
To register visit (www.seeuthere.com/ACS/Sankofa2012) or call 1-888-523- 7581.