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Topics > Reducing Health Disparities Initiative > What We Are Doing > Addressing Health Disparities in The African-American Community

Addressing Health Disparities in The African-American Community


The African-America Health Initiatives Group, left to right, Dawna Vann, William Walker, MD., Yvonne Beals, Tiombe Mashama, José Martín, Lynor Jackson-Marks, Jeanette Walker-Johnson, Suzette Johnson, and Wanda Session.

What's the problem

It is nationally and locally recognized that the African-American community is severely impacted by health disparities. In May 2005, the Community Health Indicators Report (CHIR) compiled by our Community Health Assessment, Planning and Evaluation Unit showed that African-Americans in Contra Costa die at disproportionately high rates from preventable diseases, contributing to major public health problems in our county.

When compared to the county as a whole:

  • African-Americans are more likely to die from cancer. Prostate cancer has the largest disparity for African-American men, who are nearly three times as likely to die from this type of cancer.
  • African-Americans are three times more likely to die from diabetes
  • African-American men are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS, and the rate of AIDS cases for African-American women is on the rise
  • African-American women are twice as likely to give birth to low birth weight infants.
  • African-American children are almost five times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma.

Homicide, obesity and stroke are other issues that impact the African-American community at disproportionately high rates.

Birth of the African-American Health Initiative

Fifteen of our staff attended the "African-American Health Summit: Embracing Wellness, Mind, Body and Spirit," sponsored by the Bay Area Black United Fund two years ago. The Summit discussed the urgent need to address the continuing health crisis facing the African-American community. Following the Summit, CCHS Director Dr. William Walker convened those who attended. After several meetings and using CHIR data, other staff were asked to join the group and the African-American Health Initiative (AAHI) Planning Group was born. The AAHI Planning Group is facilitated by RHDI staff and includes two dozen CCHS employees from seven divisions. The Planning Group worked to develop a vision and mission, guiding principles, action steps and recommended strategies to improve partnerships with the African-American community.

A Call to Action

The AAHI Planning Group conducted a review of our services and agreed that a "Call to Action" is needed. They stress that any efforts to reduce health disparities in the African-American community must recognize the relationship between culture, history and health outcomes. It requires a delivery system that addresses the "whole person" - mind, body and spirit - and engages the community in planning solutions.

The AAHI Planning Group made six recommendations:

Establish the AAHI as a formal and permanent part of RHDI that would serve as a model to use with other impacted ethnic groups in our county Establish a partnership with the African-American community to hear what their priorities are and what intervention strategies they suggest Identify measurable health issues and create services that address those issues Implement internal systems changes that include recruiting African-Americans in leadership and middle-management positions Incorporate AAHI concerns into cultural competence trainings for staff Develop monitoring and evaluation components to AAHI programs and training Read the Planning Group's Recommendations on iSite, the CCHS intranet (type cchs in your browser address from a department computer).

Bay Point Health Conductors Work in the Community

Our Health Conductors in Bay Point are another strategy we are using to address health disparities in the African-American community. This project is modeled after the Black United Fund Conductor project, which focuses on having individuals make a personal commitment to promote health and wellness in their own lives, among family members and within the African-American community. Conductors Evelyn Dodson and Leandra Turner work closely with African-American professionals who provide one-on-one mentoring, varying in experience and expertise and include many of our fellow staff members. The conductors are working to hear from African-American residents about what their health education interests are, helping African-Americans navigate our healthcare system and raising community awareness in the African-American community about the health disparities they face.



Content provided by the Reducing Health Disparities Initiative.


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