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Self-Reported Health Perceptions Among African Americans

Knowing how clients view their health status may be useful if you are trying to help them improve health by making positive lifestyle changes. A recent study shows that some African Americans believe they are in good health despite being over-weight or hypertensive.

The study, published in Ethnicity & Disease (2014; 24, 97–103), followed 1,077 members of African Methodist Episcopal churches in South Carolina. Subjects were participants in a faith-based physical activity and nutrition intervention.

The study compared each person’s self-rated health (SRH) status with his or her self-reported chronic health conditions (like diabetes or high cholesterol); fruit and vegetable intake; “fat and fiber behaviors”; and physical activity levels.

In evaluating the data, the re- searchers learned—perhaps not surprisingly—that individuals who engaged in more physical activity and had more favorable fiber and fat behaviors were more likely to report higher health ratings. On the other hand, no association emerged between SRH status and fruit and vegetable intake.

The researchers also noticed that some participants gave themselves higher health ratings despite their chronic health conditions.

“Of those reporting excellent or very good SRH in our study, 13% had diabetes, 47% had hypertension, 26% had high cholesterol, 23% had arthritis, and 46% were considered obese; half had at least two chronic health conditions,” the authors stated.

The authors suggested that some individuals may report higher SRH status despite being overweight/obese and hypertensive because these conditions are prevalent among the African-American population and may be considered normal. An association between church attendance and SRH status was observed, but this did not indicate causality. The researchers posited, however, that church-related programs may prove beneficial to this population.

“Because religion and the church play an important role in the lives of African Americans, collaborating with the church via faith-based health promotion interventions may be one approach to successfully influence and improve the health behaviors (e.g., physical activity and diet) of African Americans,” the authors concluded.

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