Catherine Fisher Collins
The health status of African-American women has received considerable attention over the last two decades, yet they remain the sickest of all American minorities and nonminorities. In this commentary I will present some of the health indicators that demonstrate the poor health status of African-American women, taking into account the impact of poverty, racism, sexism, poor education, limited or no access to health care services, and other related factors.
In seeking to understand how sick a population really is, one might investigate the life expectancy of that population. Often we are led to believe that African-American women, and other poor women, receive considerable health resources, driving up Medicaid health care costs. One might then expect their health status to be fairly good, if not excellent. In looking at one measurement--life expectancy, which "describes the likelihood of surviving to a given age at a given time in history" ( Harper & Lambert, 1994, p. 16)--one might then assume that those who are supposedly using all of this health care would be in relatively good health.
Determining how long a person will live is based on age-specific death rates of the population at a certain time. Life expectancy is not only how long African-American women are expected to live, but it is also a good indication of how they are meeting the awesome challenges of society, as