Black churches and safe sex education

African Americans are becoming infected with HIV/AIDS more than ever before, comprising nearly 50% of all AIDS diagnoses in 2009, despite representing just over 12% of the U.S. population. The YOUR Center, a community development center, has launched a new initiative, YOUR Blessed Health (YBH), to put an end to the spread of HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) around Flint, Michigan.

Through providing resources and education to faith-based institutions and community based organizations, YOUR Blessed Health hopes to educate 13 to 19-year-old African American teens who represent 65% of new HIV/AIDs cases in the American teen population each year. There are currently 46 faith based organizations in the area that now participate in this youth program, which has been up and running for five years now.

The group’s primary focus is 11- to 25-year-old African American men and women. YBH wants to spread their message to African American children through the churches and community organizations by providing more trusted areas for adults and teens to discuss the actions that may put them at risk for HIV/AIDS. Before YBH, sex and HIV were forbidden discussion topics for community churches. Director of the YOUR center, Bettina Campbell, believes this is even more of a reason to expose the program to these youths, as they are statistically more at risk than other minority groups and whites.

Though the group experienced much resistance from church leaders in the creation of the youth program, YBH offers training and support for participating pastors, as well as their spouses, and other community and religious leaders. The faith leaders are able to choose from a list of educational activities based on their own beliefs and culture. For example, one pastor may be against showing his youth members how to properly apply a condom using a banana, while another may give consent as long as it is off church property.

Campbell says churches across the United States are interested in duplicating the program, and they plan on using YBH has their primary model. Find out more about getting tested and getting your community involved at

African Americans at greater risk for bedsores in nursing homes

A study done by the University of Iowa reports elderly African Americans living in nursing homes are more likely to suffer from bedsores. Bedsores usually develop if there is a lack of blood flow to an area of bones covered by a thin layer of skin, commonly found in the heels, elbows, and tailbone.

The study also showed nursing homes with predominately black residents lacked the resources needed for proper care, when compared to facilities with mostly white residents. The observational study was conducted with 2.1 million white nursing home residents and 346,808 black residents from 12,500 nursing facilities. From these residents, researchers found that 15% of black residents developed bedsores, while only 10% of white residents were affected.

Even though black residents seem to be more at risk, the study has determined that it is not necessarily caused by black residents receiving inferior-quality care, but a lack of staff resources to give the proper amount of care to their residents. Researchers discovered that even white residents placed in homes with mostly black residents were at a higher risk for bedsores.

If bedsores are not treated right away, they can become more serious and even life threatening. It is important that nursing home staff takes the proper steps in treating bedsores, or they can develop into sepsis. Failure to catch bedsores in their early stages has even found nursing home staff in negligence lawsuits.

Mobility limitations in African Americans linked to depressive symptoms

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has led a study displaying a relation between demographic health issues and mobility limitation. Researchers found that depressed African American women had almost three times the odds of mobility limitations than those who are not depressed. Additionally, African Americans reporting multiple medical conditions tended to have a higher risk of mobility limitations than those with fewer medical conditions. The study can be found in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Gerontology.

The study was conducted with 602 African Americans, made up of men and women between the ages of 48 and 92. The participants previously reported having difficulties walking and climbing stairs. The researchers used logistic regression to measure how demographics and health independently affected mobility. Results proved that pre-existing medical conditions in African Americans were associated with mobility limitations; however, African American women with lower incomes were affected the most.

Roland Thorpe, assistant scientist with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, says depressive symptoms have not been labeled as a mobility limitation factor in the past, but the studies have begun to prove otherwise. Thorpe says the problem might have been a lack of motivation rather than a mobility limitation; therefore, in order to repair mobility, African Americans must tend to medical conditions right away and control their depressive symptoms.

Study finds black youth in California targeted by tobacco marketing

Academic researchers, funded by California’s Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, found a greater number of menthol cigarette advertising at retailers near high schools with a high African American student population.

Lisa Henriksen, Senior Research Engineer at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, studies environmental influences on adolescent tobacco use, particularly with tobacco marketing in smoking initiation and maintenance. She presented the findings at a legislative hearing in Sacramento in late April 2012.

The research found as the percentage of black students increased at a California high school, so did the existence of both menthol-related advertising and Newport brand promotions at retailers near the schools. The study looked at all cigarette advertising, but specifically observed promotions and price discounts for Marlboro and Newport, two of the most popular brands with underage smokers.

Henriksen’s study of cigarette marketing also found African American teens were better able to recognize a Newport advertisement than teens of other races. And in analyzing California’s K–12 schools, the research observed 24% of school campuses had tobacco retailers within 600 feet, and 38% of schools were within 1,000 feet of a store where cigarettes were sold. Stores near high schools, on average, featured 25 cigarette ads.

Additionally, Robert Lipton from the University of Michigan presented research showing that in the Los Angeles area, dense, poor, and minority communities had greater rates of underage tobacco sales.

California has the second-lowest smoking rate in the country at about 12%. But according to the California Department of Public Health, tobacco use among African Americans in the state is between 3%–6%, higher than the statewide average.

The Federal Trade Commission’s most recent California statistics show the tobacco industry spent over $10 billion on marketing in 2008.

Correlation Found Between Poor Nutrition and Disease for African Americans

Poor eating habits and lack of exercise among African Americans increases their risk of developing cancer, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, according to recent studies by the Public Health Institute (PHI) and the California Department of Health Services (CDHS).

Health care professionals at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine Sciences (CDU), a medical school and college in Los Angeles that provides health care to underserved populations, believes this trend of poor nutrition in African Americans is a cause for concern.

CDU President Charles Francis, PhD, says, “We see evidence of this every day in our [African American] patients who have a higher incidence of obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, than the rest of the population.”

CDU is especially concerned with the poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle of many black youths. PHI studies have found that black teens are spending less time participating in physical activity and more time watching TV, playing video games and using the computer. In fact, African-American teens spend an average of 188 minutes a day watching television, compared to other young adults who average 130 minutes a day. Black teens also have poorer nutrition, according to studies by the CDHS that found that this group eats too few fruits and vegetables, too many high-fat foods and is increasingly overweight.

But African-American teens are not the only ones participating in these unhealthy behaviors, the study concludes black adults’ increased risk of many types of disease is, in part, a result of their own poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

“Our people are dying,” says Elaine Williams, PhD, a doctor at CDU. “This is real for us. Health disparities in this country widen every year, and this chronic condition is threatening our lives.”

To combat this trend of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, the CDU challenges African Americans to take it upon themselves to follow healthy dietary guidelines, such as eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The university’s Task Force for Nutrition advises black teens and children to increase their physical activity to 60 minutes a day and encourages black adults to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.