OnCentral | Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

Black History Month shines light on health disparities in black, minority populations

African Americans throughout the U.S. face higher rates of cancer and HIV than other demographics.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

Black History Month is intended to honor notable people and events in African American history. But the February commemoration is also a time to acknowledge the inequalities that still apply.

Health officials say that although there have been dramatic improvements in the overall health of residents in the U.S., many minority populations are still struggling because of disparities in healthcare, education and poverty.

"The health disparities between African Americans and other racial groups are striking and are apparent in life expectancy, death rates, infant mortality, and other measures of health status," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to data from 2009, the average white American had a life expectancy of 78.8 years, compared to the average black American who lived 74.5 years. This more than four-year difference can be attributed to an array of issues, many of which may stem from or are exacerbated by the fact that African Americans -- as well as Latinos -- between the ages of 18 to 64, have "substantially larger percentages of uninsured populations" compared to Asians and whites, according to the CDC. 


Add your comments

Type 1 diabetes among children is growing and stressed-out young adults: In health news today

A new survey shows that stress levels overall are on the decline, but still hovering above healthy levels – especially for young adults.
Renu Parkhi/Flickr Creative Commons

In today's health news:

The prevalence of type 1 diabetes among children younger than five spiked 70 percent between 1985 and 2004, reports HealthDay, which experts attribute to "something in the environment." They aren't sure what that something is yet, although young children appear to be the ones who are most susceptible to it.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that as more provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect, more Americans will move away from employer-provided health coverage. CNN says approximately 7 million people are expected to either lose or drop health coverage provided by their employer by 2022. But along with that, the number of people participating in the health insurance marketplaces is also expected to rise, from 7 million in 2014 to 24 million in 2016.


Add your comments

High obesity rates, lack of dental care access could be unhealthy combination for South LA

A patient receives dental care at the 2011 Care Harbor clinic in South Los Angeles. At the 2012 event, Care Harbor's CEO said dental care was by far the biggest need there.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Two things about South Los Angeles make the findings of a recent study appearing in General Dentistry particularly troubling:

1. The latest numbers from the county's Department of Public Health show that the southside has some of the highest obesity rates in L.A. County. While the adult obesity rate for the county overall is 24 percent, that goes up to about 33 percent in South L.A.

2. In September, the free Care Harbor clinic that took place in South L.A. served nearly 5,000 uninsured patients over four days. Don Manelli, Care Harbor's CEO, said dental care was by far the biggest need among those who received treatment.

And now the General Dentistry study: Researchers have linked obesity to an increased risk of gum disease. They wrote that the bodies of obese people "relentlessly" produce a type of protein known as cytokines, which have inflammatory properties. If those proteins come into contact with or manage to reduce blood flow to the gum tissues, that may promote the development of gum disease.


Add your comments

Pot's effect on stroke risk and Alzheimer's projections: In health news today

Marijuana may be a stroke trigger in young adults, says a new study, which found pot in the system of 16 percent of study participants who went to the hospital after a stroke.
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

In today's health news:

Marijuana may be a stroke trigger in young adults, New Zealand researchers said yesterday at an international medical conference, suggesting that the drug may not be the "relatively safe" substance many people think it is. CBSNews.com said 16 percent of study participants who went to the hospital after a stroke had pot in their system, compared to 8.1 percent of control subjects.

The number of people with Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. is expected to triple over the next 40 years, says a new study in the journal Neurology, meaning nearly 14 million people are projected to have the disease in 2050. That's compared to 4.7 million in 2010. On a related note, the Food and Drug Administration released a draft of new guidelines for drug companies that are trying to develop treatment for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's.


Add your comments

Obesity can lead to low vitamin D levels – but what does that mean?

Salmon is one of the few foods in which vitamin D is naturally present.

Researchers knew obesity and vitamin D levels in the body were related somehow. They just hadn't been able to quite put their finger on it.

Until now.

New research in the journal PLOS Medicine found that obesity can lead to low vitamin D levels in the body. In numerical form: A 10 percent rise in a person's body mass index was linked to a 4 percent drop in the concentration of vitamin D in a person's body.

What exactly is vitamin D?

The vitamin is "naturally present in very few foods," according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), but is available as a dietary supplement. It's naturally obtained when sunlight hits the skin, but needs to be run through the liver and the kidney in order to be activated.

It's a somewhat mysterious supplement, in that researchers have a lot of ideas about what the vitamin does but not enough evidence to prove it. Experts do know that it promotes calcium absorption in the gut and helps maintain bone health. Some believe it can help reduce a person's risk of heart disease or multiple sclerosis, but attempts to prove a causal association have been inconclusive.


Add your comments