Health Knowledge among Historically Black College and University Students: An Exploratory Study

By Livingston, Ivor L.; Saafir, Brittani D. et al. | College Student Journal, September 2012 | Go to article overview

Health Knowledge among Historically Black College and University Students: An Exploratory Study


Livingston, Ivor L., Saafir, Brittani D., Manuel, Ron Carmichael, College Student Journal


Traditionally, vast health disparities exist in African American populations. Evidence suggests that historically Black college students exhibit high levels of health knowledge; however, it also suggests that this knowledge does not translate into practice. The intent of this research was to explore the general and chronic health knowledge of historically Black college students. Data was collected at an historically Black university through the use of a self-administered survey (n = 428). Univariate, bivariate, and multivariate techniques were used to analyze this data. Overall, it was found that the approximately 75 percent of students exhibited high levels of both general and chronic health knowledge. Through correlation analysis, a positive relationship was found between general health knowledge and gender. (r = .194 p = .000;). Additionally, a negative correlation was found between chronic health knowledge and major. (r = -.112 p = .034) Due to the exploratory nature of this study, additional research should be conducted to determine if similar results are found in other similar student populations. Efforts should be made to explore other means of increasing the awareness of health related knowledge with students who attend historically Black colleges and universities.

Introduction

Historically, African American populations experience great health disparities with respect to chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was found that African-Americans are twice as likely to die from diabetes related issues than their Caucasian-American counterparts (Xu 2007). With respect to heart disease, African-American suffer a 1.3 increased odds of death when compared with Caucasian-Americans (Xu 2007). Both of these diseases affect people later in life and can be prevented with lifestyle changes and an awareness of the warning signs. Because of these implications for the future, it is imperative that Black students be knowledgeable about the lifestyle decisions and risk factors associated with these diseases. The rational is that educating students prior to the onset of these diseases will help to prevent them from developing the disease later in life, especially those minority students who are at risk.

Traditionally, the historically black college or university (HBCU) has provided an avenue for higher education and professional development. Currently, HBCUs are maintaining this legacy by providing opportunities to students that would otherwise not be afforded one (Brown 2007). It is thought that "establishing life-long positive health behaviors at an early age will provide some protection from chronic disease" (Hayes 2009). It has also been said (Hayes 2009) that students who maintain generally healthy lifestyles growing-up do not continue their health lifestyle behaviors while in college. A study conducted on the campus of an HBCU in 1994 found that approximately 90 percent of students did not eat breakfast with almost 75 percent reporting that their diets were not balanced (Ford 1994). Another study conducted in 2006 found that just over 30 percent of HBCU students reported exercising the recommended 2-3 times per week (Hicks and Miller 2006). From a third study, it was found that close to 70 percent of HBCU students prefer high-fat foods with close to 90 percent consuming over 30 percent of the recommended daily fat allotment (Brown 2010). Perpetuating these negative behaviors may have considerable implications for the health of these at risk students as they get older.

Other contradicting evidence exists to that mentioned above. For example, A study conducted in 2009 among historically Black college and university students found that 65-70 percent of students were knowledgeable of risks in fat and sugar intake and 60 percent were knowledgeable of risks in sodium intake (Hayes 2009). Additionally, close to 80 percent of students reported being interested in changing habits to avoid heart disease (Hayes 2009). …

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