Family History and Health Equity for People of Color

The Importance of Family Health History for People of Color

Did you know that Thanksgiving Day is also National Family Health History Day? Knowing about and acting on family health history is important for everyone, but far more so for people of color. Non-White populations fare worse across many major health indicators, including living environment, diet, mental health, drug use, financial security, and more. People of color are also more prone to many chronic diseases than their White counterparts, so it’s essential for these groups to understand their hereditary risk factors.

How To Improve Your Health With Family Medical History  

You can use your family’s medical history to improve your own health, prevent disease, and get any needed interventional treatment as early as possible. Here are some steps you can take to benefit from knowing your family’s health history:

  • Talk to your family members and ask questions. Speak with as many relatives as you can on both sides of your family. Ask them what medical conditions they have or have had in the past and when they were diagnosed with them. Prioritize chronic conditions that disproportionately affect people of color, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, diabetes, stroke, peripheral artery disease (PAD), and sickle cell disease.
  • Record and update your findings for future use. Collect as much information as you can in a document and update it whenever you gain a new piece of family health history. You can then refer back to the document as needed.
  • Share family history information with your medical care providers. Visit your primary care physician regularly and share your family medical history with them. If possible, upload relevant documents to your secure online patient portal or platform so they can easily be shared among multiple care providers.
  • Educate yourself on screening and prevention. Once you know which conditions you might be at risk for, contact your doctor and ask what kinds of screening are available for them. Many diseases are preventable, so educate yourself on ways to live a healthy lifestyle and commit to any necessary changes.

On Giving Tuesday, Promote Health Equity for People of Color

The Tuesday following Thanksgiving is Giving Tuesday, and it’s a great opportunity to make positive changes through donations to nonprofit organizations. This year, consider giving to promote equity for people of color, who face greater barriers to good health and effective healthcare than White populations. Just a few examples of these include:

  • Economic challenges, such as being uninsured or underinsured, the cost of healthcare without insurance, and transportation and childcare costs associated with keeping medical appointments
  • Distrust in healthcare systems because of serious historic harms to people of color in the medical industry resulting from racism
  • Misdiagnoses or failure to diagnose patients at all because of continuing racial bias among healthcare providers in a field with few physicians of color
  • Lack of adequate medical and healthcare facilities in underinvested communities (also known as medical deserts), in which people of color are nationally overrepresented
  • Low engagement with mental healthcare systems by African American men and other people of color because of cultural stigmas regarding gender roles and mental health
  • Higher risk of contracting COVID-19 during the pandemic in frontline jobs that cannot be done remotely as well as greater economic losses due to shutdown layoffs

Promote Racial Health Equity With the African American Wellness Project

The African American Wellness Project (AAWP) was organized to respond to inequities in the healthcare delivery system. African Americans suffer from health conditions at a disproportionately higher rate than other groups; we provide the resources, information, and tools that Black Americans need to get the best quality of healthcare possible. We do this by providing culturally relevant health information and access to African American health experts.

Check out our Health Topics resources or contact us to learn more. Join AAWP in the fight as we do our part to ensure that the African American community receives equitable comprehensive healthcare, and consider donating today!