A regional Perspective on Afrodescendant Quality of Life

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Health Care
Northern America
The health of Afrodescendants in the U.S. continues to decline. Infant mortality rates are twice as high for blacks, and adults experience disproportionately high mortality rates from causes that include heart disease and stroke, homicide, accidents, cancer, cirrhosis and diabetes. Afrodescendant males suffer from heart disease at twice the rate of whites, and blacks are more likely to die from breast cancer and prostate cancer.31
The Urban League, in its 2005 report, states that HIV infects Afrodescendants at a rate five times that of whites, that black women are twenty times more likely to become infected than white women and that blacks are five times more likely to be the victims of a homicide. A report issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights admits that discrimination in healthcare is a reality for blacks in the United States.
Some scholars believe that many of the mental health issues affecting Afrodescendant communities can be traced back to their slave ancestry, or at least attributed to the trauma suffered by some in the wake of that legacy. Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Chester Price describes the environment in which American Blacks live as a mundane extreme environment, or an environment in which racism and subtle oppression are constant, continuing and mundane. The “microaggressions” which Afrodescendants suffer, Price claims, have had a harsh impact on the psyche and worldview of Blacks. These injuries can affect Blacks’ sense of self-perception and behavior, and are stressful, detracting and energy-consuming.32
Further research is required regarding the state of health for Afrodescendants in Canada.
Latin America
Health in Latin America is a major concern for all communities, but Afrodescendants find themselves both unhealthier and with less access to care than other groups. At present, no available data specific to Afrodescendants regarding health in Mexico has been located. Further research is required. Minority Rights Group notes that health insurance in Colombia is afforded to only 10% of Afrodescendant communities, versus 40% of white communities.33 In Brazil—a country with a 62 in 1,000 black infant mortality rate—the white population is 2.5 times healthier than the Afrodescendant population. Guyana’s Afrodescendants struggle with the rising spread of AIDS; it is a disease that continues to affect them disproportionately, and which results in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, as well as lower population and growth rates. In the Esmeraldas region of Ecuador, Afrodescendants have a higher rate of both suicide and homicide, while the Garifuna in Honduras’ coastal region show much higher HIV/AIDS rates than do the general population.
Across Latin America, statistics show that Afrodescendants overall experience higher HIV/AIDS rates, a severe shortage of doctors, higher infant mortality rates, lower life expectancy and higher incidences of diabetes, cancer, hypertension, high blood pressure and respiratory disease.
The Caribbean is no exception when examining issues of health and inadequacies in health care. Haiti has a mere life expectancy of 54 years and an infant mortality rate of 71 per 1000. The World Bank estimates that malnutrition affects half of all children in Haiti, and that eleven HIV positive babies are born in Haiti every day. Overall, 300,000 people in this Caribbean nation are HIV positive, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic account for 85% of the reported HIV/AIDS cases in the Caribbean. Jamaica has a higher life expectancy rate, at 75.7 years on average, but many Jamaicans suffer from respiratory disease and high rates of diabetes. A 1997 report by the American Association of World Health reports that the U.S. embargo against Cuba has resulted in a significant rise in suffering and deaths in Cuba, where life expectancy averages 76 years. Cuba’s infant mortality rate is 7% for the general Cuban population; specific statistics for Afro-Cubans were not found.

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