Celebrating Cultural Diversity and Health in Medicine

Salt Lake City, UT — (ReleaseWire) — 03/05/2022 — Utah and the U.S. has strong communities from African countries. Black History Month — a time to understand the needs of the nation’s growing diverse populations — recently ended, but the celebration should continue.

Petronella Adomako, MD, an infectious diseases physician and president of the medical staff of Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah, said that everyone has many of the same health issues. But the way people approach healthcare and their own health can be very different depending on their cultural backgrounds.

“In some countries, you can just go into a pharmacy at home and get whatever medication you need without a prescription,” Dr. Adomako said. “So, there is a learning process.”

Preventative screenings, exams, and medicines, however, may not be sought out by some people who immigrant to the United States.

Dr. Adomako, herself a pioneering physician at Intermountain, was born and raised in Ghana. She regularly talks about the importance of preventative care to the GK Folks Foundation, a Utahn organization helping African immigrants.

Typically, on March 6, Ghana’s national Independence Day, there is a conference held and Dr. Adomako holds a health seminar. This year that won’t be happen due to the COVID pandemic.

“My message is that prevention is better than cure. It’s cost effective, leads to longevity, and allows people more time to spend with their family,” Dr. Adomako said.

In addition to her work as an infectious diseases physician, Dr. Adomako’s work at Intermountain also focuses on teaching how everyone can navigate the American health system and insurance.

Vaccine hesitancy can be major obstacle in some African communities, whether it’s for COVID-19, influenza, or other health issues. That also extends to mental health matters, she said.

There is a stigma in some African countries to “tough it out” when it comes to mental well-being, she says. Dr. Adomako works to break that stigma and help others get help, if they need it.

Above all, Dr. Adomako works to instill a level of trust among others for the U.S. health system.

“When it all comes down to it, the answer is trust,” Dr. Adomako said. “It’s different but it helps. When there is trust, there is care.”

The good news is that African Americans are living longer. The death rate for African Americans has declined about 25% over the past 17 years, primarily for those aged 65 years and older.

Even with these improvements, however, new analysis shows that younger African Americans are living with or dying of many conditions typically found in white Americans at older ages, indicating that there are still disparities in the incidence and death rates for certain diseases.

8 Conditions with Higher Risk for African Americans

1. Heart Disease -Heart disease remains the number one killer of all Americans. So, it’s not surprising that it’s the leading cause of death for African Americans. However, African Americans are 20% more likely to die from heart disease compared to Caucasians. And African American heart disease strikes earlier, with those ages 18 to 49 at twice the risk of death compared to whites.

2. High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease. So, it makes sense that African American high blood pressure statistics are also disproportionate. High blood pressure tends to develop earlier, be more severe, and is less likely to be controlled in African Americans. They are 40% more likely to have high blood pressure than non-Hispanic whites. And for Black women, the numbers are worseβ€”they are 60% more likely to have high blood pressure.

3. Obesity – In the United States, African Americans have the highest rate of being overweight or obese. Among Black adults, 63% of men and 77% of women are either overweight or obese. This extra weight contributes to the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. And all of these conditions increase the likelihood of heart disease. Diet and exercise are the main way to fight obesity and being overweight.

4. Diabetes – Diabetes is 60% more common among African Americans compared to non-Hispanic whites. They are also more likely to have serious complications from it, including end-stage kidney disease, and limb amputations. And they are twice as likely to die from the disease.

5. Stroke – Stroke is another condition that intertwines with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. All these conditions are risk factors for stroke. Not surprisingly, African Americans are 50% more likely to suffer a stroke than Caucasians. Black men are 60% more likely to die from one.

6. Cancer – The overall cancer mortality rate is higher for African Americans than any other race or ethnicity. The top cancers affecting all Americans are just about the same but the death rate for African Americans is higher. Public health efforts to increase access to screening and treatment may decrease these disparities.

7. Chronic Liver Disease – Chronic liver disease is among the leading causes of death for African Americans. Factors that commonly contribute to chronic liver disease include obesity, and viral hepatitis infections.

8. Asthma – Asthma is more prevalent among both Black adults and children. African Americans with asthma are more likely to visit the emergency room and be admitted to the hospital. In fact, Black children are four times as likely to end up in the hospital compared to non-Hispanic white children. They also have a death rate that is 10 times as high.

For more information, visit the IntermountainHealthcare.org.

Petronella Adomako, MD, a practicing physician at Intermountain McKay-Dee and Layton Hospitals and a member of the the Intermountain Healthcare” href=”https://intermountainhealthcare.org/about/who-we-are/intermountain-medical-group/”>Intermountain Medical Group

About Intermountain Healthcare
Located in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, the Intermountain Medical Group with some 2,700 employed physicians and advanced care practitioners, a health plans division called SelectHealth, Homecare, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.

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Media Relations Contact

Brad Gillman
Media Relations
Intermountain Healthcare
Telephone: 1-801-442-2811
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