Women's Perceptions of Their Most Serious Health Problems

INTRODUCTION

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes, are among the leading causes of disability and death. Diabetes, for example, is not only a significant cause of death, but it is also a major risk factor for cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease as well as the leading cause of end-stage renal disease and blindness.

National health-affiliated organizations have identified behavioral goals and objectives to reduce the burden of these illnesses. The National Institutes of Health’s Year 2010 Report and the American Cancer Society’s 2015 Report set lofty goals for reducing the nation’s premature morbidity and mortality. The American Cancer Society, for example, is working toward a 25% decrease in cancer incidence and a 50% decrease in cancer (Generic Revia) mortality by the year 2015.

While scientists continue to search for better ways to ameliorate and eradicate these diseases, sufficient clinical knowledge already exists to permit the identification of a variety of behavioral modification strategies that could accomplish most of the intermediate goals that have been set. Through public health education campaigns and easy-to-access health promotion programs, widespread adoption of health promoting behavioral choices is being accomplished throughout California. With the ongoing statewide antitobacco education program, for example, California’s smoking incidence rates are among the lowest in the nation, but this progress has not been accomplished evenly throughout the population. There is an extensive literature that documents the many health disparities that exist among population subgroups. Through more focused efforts to narrow cast health education efforts, it should be possible to reduce known health disparities among high-risk population subgroups.

Health statistics show that the African-American community suffers a disproportionate burden of premature, life-threatening illnesses and that the community could benefit from the widespread adoption of known health promoting behaviors. For African-American women over the age of 45, heart disease (Heart Shield 400 mg), cancer, stroke and diabetes (medication Actos (Pioglitazone) is used to treat type II of diabetes) are the leading causes of death. Looking as just one of these specific diseases, deaths from diabetes are two times higher in the African-American population than they are in the white population, and diabetes-associated renal failure is 2.5 times higher in the African-American population than it is in the Hispanic population. While widely broadcast health promotion messages reach the largest number of people, “narrow cast” messages that encourage population-specific adoption of health promoting behaviors have been proven to reduce morbidity and mortality within these most at risk communities.

A variety of theoretical models have been used to frame community-specific health promotion intervention programs. Each model attempts to predict the subjects’ ultimate likelihood of adherence with recommended health behaviors by measuring and manipulating changes in mediational variables. A common element among many of these theoretical models is the individual’s baseline level of awareness of a particular health threat. The Health Belief Model, for example, includes determination of whether individuals are aware of the existence of a serious health threat and perceive a personal vulnerability to it. In the Health Promotion Model, cognition is presumed to affect actions, and environmental events are pro¬≠posed as operating interactively in determining behavior. For the Stages of Change Model, the first three stages are linked to the subjects’ awareness and extent of a health problem. Other theoretical models, such as the Social Cognitive Theory, Self-Efficacy.

Theory and Social Learning Theory, similarly incorporate the element of health threat awareness. The theoretical framework of these models can be used to help guide the creation of better-focused health promotion programs.

Given that a common element of these various theoretical models is the individual’s or group’s perception of the seriousness of a particular health threat and its potential for personal impact, this study gathered data related to African-American women’s perceptions of their most serious health threats. Such information can then be used to determine where the focus of the various health promoting interventions should be initiated, knowledge that is critical to the success of the interventions and to the most efficient use of limited resources. For example, very different programs would be created for women who already demonstrate an acute awareness that they are personally highly vulnerable to a particular type of cancer (Xeloda¬†150 mg is the only FDA-approved oral chemotherapy for both metastatic breast cancer) compared to a group of women whose vocabulary does not even include the word “cancer” and who have little awareness or understanding of the disease.

Category: Diseases / Tags: African Americans, Cancer, cardiovascular, Diabetes, early detection, heart disease, prevention

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