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Black History Month: Focusing on the Significant Health Challenges of Black Americans

  • Published
  • 7 February 2024
  • Category
  • General

February is Black History Month and we recognize the struggles and honor the triumphs of Black Americans throughout history.

Black Americans face a unique set of challenges, including a history of disadvantages in terms of their physical and mental well-being and equal access to health care. Significant underlying health challenges for Black Americans include a disproportionately high prevalence of diabetes, mental health disorders and cardiovascular disease in comparison to some other groups. These conditions are often interconnected and under-treated.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar. It is one of the leading causes of death among Black Americans, who are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people in other racial groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13.2 percent of Black Americans have diabetes compared to 7.5 percent of White Americans. This disparity is partly due to genetics. Some behaviors, such as eating a high-fat diet or being sedentary, may be attributed to lack of safe exercise options or limited access to affordable, healthy food choices in many Black American communities.

Mental health is an important aspect of overall quality of life for everyone. A study by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIH) found that Black Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than White Americans. This disparity is attributed to a range of factors, including discrimination and limited access to mental health services. As a result, there is a lower likelihood of receiving a diagnosis and treatment for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies show that people with untreated mental health disorders are more likely to have relationship conflicts and use addictive substances to help relieve symptoms.

Cardiovascular disease is a group of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black Americans are 40 percent more likely to have hypertension (high blood pressure) and less likely than White Americans to have their blood pressure under control. Again, this disparity is due to a range of factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices and lack of access to health care services.

It’s important to acknowledge that while social determinants of health, such as income, educational level and race, contribute to health challenges, many Black Americans are able to enjoy long, healthy lives.

To help address disparities affecting employees due to complex factors, WorkCare focuses on treating every encounter with an occupational health clinician as an opportunity to educate individuals and protect and promote workforce health.

To learn more about WorkCare’s holistic health solutions, visit our Contact Page or email us at

Charlette Washington is a Marketing & Communications Specialist at WorkCare.