Using Health Fairs to Examine Health Promotion Behaviors of Older African Americans

Article excerpt

Abstract: Unhealthy behaviors are responsible for high morbidity and mortality rates among older African Americans. For some older African Americans, changing unhealthy behaviors may be difficult to achieve due to limited knowledge and access to preventative health care services. Health fairs are just one venue of examining health promotion behaviors and providing health promotion information to older African Americans. The purpose of this article is to report the health promotion behaviors of older African Americans as a result of conducting two health fairs. The Transtheoretical Model served as the framework for examining health behavior change among older African Americans. Nursing implications will be discussed.

Key Words: Older African Americans, Health Promotional Behaviors, Health Fairs

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2000), it is estimated that unhealthy behav iors are responsible for 55% of mortality among older Americans. Thus, changing unhealthy behaviors can positively impact one's health. For some older African Americans, changing unhealthy behaviors may be difficult to achieve due to limited knowledge and access to preventative health care services. Three major goals of Healthy People 2010 address this problem: 1) increase the span of healthy life for older minority Americans; 2) reduce health disparities among minority Americans; and 3) improve access to preventative services for older minority Americans.

Health fairs are one venue for examining health promotion behaviors and providing health promotion information to older African Americans. Health fair activities, such as health screenings, allow nurses to examine client health parameters, health beliefs and health behaviors. As a result of these health fairs, nurses can provide clients with knowledge to improve their well-being, which is consistent with the concept of health promotion. Health promotion is geared toward enhancing the level of well being and self-actualization for an individual or population (Pender, Murdough, & Parsons, 2002). The ultimate goal of a health fair is to foster healthy lifestyle habits, which serve as building blocks of good health. Continued knowledge of health promotion behaviors can lead to the development of public health programs to improve health outcomes and ensure adequate access to preventative services among older African Americans.

The literature provides limited insight pertaining to the examination of health promotion behaviors among older African Americans. Gallant and Dom (2001), examined factors that influence the practice of health behaviors among older adults. Factors that predicted preventative behavior varied by gender and race. Results indicated that formal social integration was significant for the health behaviors of older black women. To gain a better understanding of health behaviors, it was concluded that health behaviors by race and gender be examined thoroughly. Bolen, Rhodes, PowellGriner, Bland, and Holtzman (2000), explored state-specific prevalence of selected health behaviors by race. Findings indicated that older blacks were more likely than older whites to report poor access to health care. In addition, older blacks were more likely than any other group to report having high blood pressure. Screening for colorectal cancer was also low among older blacks. In another study, James, Campbell, and Hudson (2002), investigated perceived barriers and benefits in relation to screening for colorectal cancer among older African Americans. Results from the study suggest that the way in which older African Americans perceived sigmoidscopy and colonscopy may differ from fecal occult blood testing with respect to the relative importance of perceived benefits versus barriers. Hargraves (2001) reported that mammography screening rates for older Blacks and older Hispanics were low. It was concluded that preventative care for minorities must be promoted and preventative care indicators measured on a regular basis. …