There is a growing research literature suggesting that racism is an important risk factor undermining the health of Blacks in the United States. Racism can take many forms, ranging from interpersonal interactions to institutional/structural conditions and practices. Existing research, however, tends to focus on individual forms of racial discrimination using self-report measures. Far less attention has been paid to whether structural racism may disadvantage the health of Blacks in the United States. The current study addresses gaps in the existing research by using novel measures of structural racism and by explicitly testing the hypothesis that structural racism is a risk factor for myocardial infarction among Blacks in the United States. State-level indicators of structural racism included four domains: (1) political participation; (2) employment and job status; (3) educational attainment; and (4) judicial treatment. State-level racial disparities across these domains were proposed to represent the systematic exclusion of Blacks from resources and mobility in society. Data on past-year myocardial infarction were obtained from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (non-Hispanic Black: N = 8245; non-Hispanic White: N = 24,507), a nationally representative survey of the U.S. civilian, non-institutionalized population aged 18 and older. Models were adjusted for individual-level confounders (age, sex, education, household income, medical insurance) as well as for state-level disparities in poverty. Results indicated that Blacks living in states with high levels of structural racism were generally more likely to report past-year myocardial infarction than Blacks living in low-structural racism states. Conversely, Whites living in high structural racism states experienced null or lower odds of myocardial infarction compared to Whites living in low-structural racism states. These results raise the provocative possibility that structural racism may not only harm the targets of stigma but also benefit those who wield the power to enact stigma and discrimination.
Structural racism; Stigma; Health inequalities; Cardiovascular disease
Studies of geographical variations in physical activity behaviours have suggested that activity levels are particularly low in areas that have undergone employment loss associated with the decline of industry. This is of concern given that affected populations are already at risk of poor health. Applying focus group methodology amongst 19 participants in four groups, this study aims to unpack how broader societal and environmental changes associated with industrial decline affect beliefs and attitudes towards physical activity in ex-mining communities in the North-East of England. Identified core themes comprise the direct impact of deindustrialisation on social and physical environments. Based on our findings, we provide evidence for mechanisms that operate via loss of occupational physical activity as well as the progressive development of environments that are not fit to support population activity levels. Particularly important was the loss of recreational facilities, public green spaces and sports facilities that were owned and organised by the miners themselves with support from the mining companies. Attitudes and beliefs directly related to the areas' industrial past were also seen to be key. We suggest that the development of interventions considering the socio-cultural history and socio-economic reality of communities could be a promising route to encourage more active lifestyles in deprived areas with particularly low levels of physical activity.
•Reasons for less physical activity previously observed in ex-mining areas unclear.•Detailed focus group interviews with community residents to explore influences.•Cultures of being physically fit and active present in the past have been lost.•Loss of recreational facilities and opportunities associated with colliery closure.•Important to consider socio-cultural histories in physical activity interventions.
England; Physical activity; Industrial decline; Former mining communities; Changing social and physical environments; Focus groups
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a common chronic disease with effective therapy, yet interventions to improve outcomes have met with limited success. Though problems in self-management are suspected causes for deterioration, few efforts have been made to understand how self-management could be improved to enhance the lives of affected patients. We conducted semi-structured interviews of 19 patients with CHF treated at an urban United States hospital to elucidate their knowledge and beliefs about CHF and to understand what underlies their self-care routines. A comparison of the themes generated from these interviews with the common-sense model for self-management of illness threats, clarifies how patients’ perceptions and understanding of CHF affected their behaviors. Patients had an acute model of CHF. They did not connect chronic symptoms with a chronic disease, CHF, and did not recognize that these symptoms worsened over time from their baseline of moderate, chronic distress, to a severe state that required urgent care. As a consequence, they often did not manage symptoms on a routine basis and did not, therefore, prevent or minimize exacerbations. When they worsened, many patients reported barriers to reaching their physicians and most reported seeking care primarily in an emergency room.
These in depth responses elucidate how the interplay between acute and chronic models of a chronic illness effect self-management behaviors. These factors play a previously not understood role in patient’s efforts to understand and manage the ever-present but symptomatically variable chronic illness that is CHF. These new concepts illustrate the tools that may be needed to effectively manage this serious and disabling illness, and suggest possible ways to enhance the self-management process and ultimately improve patients’ lives.
Heart failure; Self-management; Patient beliefs
Social scientists have long demonstrated that socioeconomic resources benefit health. More recently, scholars have begun to examine the potential stratification in the health returns different groups receive for a given resource. Motivated by fundamental cause theory, this paper examines homeownership as a salient health resource with potentially stratified benefits. Homeowners have significantly greater housing quality, wealth, neighborhood quality and integration, and physical and mental health than renters. However, there are compelling theoretical reasons to expect the health advantage of homeownership to be unequally distributed across racial and ethnic groups. Analyses of the 2012 March Current Population Survey initially suggest all homeowners experience a significant health advantage. Further examination finds robust evidence for a homeowner health advantage among Whites, on par with the difference between the married and divorced. The advantage among minority households is considerably smaller, and not significant among Latinos or Asians. Conditioning on a broad array of observable characteristics, White homeowners emerge as exceptionally healthy compared to White renters and all minority groups. This leads to the unexpected finding that racial/ethnic differences in health are concentrated among homeowners. The findings demonstrate the interactive nature of racial/ethnic stratification in health through both access to and returns from socioeconomic resources.
Racial and Ethnic Stratification; Homeownership; Health Disparities; United States
This paper proposes and tests a life course model of self-rated health (SRH) extending from late childhood to young adulthood, drawing on three waves of panel data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Very little research has examined SRH during the early decades, or whether and how these self-assessments reflect experiences in the family of origin. Background characteristics (parental education, income, and family structure), parental health conditions (asthma, diabetes, obesity, migraines), and early health challenges (physical abuse, presence of a disability, and parental alcoholism and smoking) predict SRH from adolescence to young adulthood. These experiences in the family-of-origin are substantially mediated by the young person’s health and health behaviors (as indicated by obesity, depression, smoking, drinking, and inactivity), although direct effects remain (especially for early health challenges). Associations between SRH and these mediators (especially obesity) strengthen with age. In turn, efforts to promote healthy behaviors in young adulthood, after the completion of secondary school, may be especially strategic in the promotion of health in later adulthood.
life course; self-rated health; parent health; adolescent health; U.S.A
Recent studies indicate that socioeconomic inequalities in health extend into the elderly population, even within the most highly developed welfare states. One potential explanation for socioeconomic inequalities in health focuses on the role of health behaviors, but little is known about the degree to which health behaviors account for health inequalities among older adults, in particular. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (N=19,245), this study examined the degree to which four behavioral risk factors – smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and heavy drinking – are associated with socioeconomic position among adults aged 51 and older, and whether these behaviors mediate socioeconomic differences in mortality, and the onset of disability among those who were disability-free at baseline, over a 10-year period from 1998–2008. Results indicate that the odds of both smoking and physical inactivity are higher among persons with lower wealth, with similar stratification in obesity, but primarily among women. The odds of heavy drinking decrease at lower levels of wealth. Significant socioeconomic inequalities in mortality and disability onset are apparent among older men and women; however, the role that health behaviors play in accounting for these inequalities differs by age and gender. For example, these health behaviors account for between 23–45% of the mortality disparities among men and middle aged women, but only about 5% of the disparities found among women over 65 years. Meanwhile, these health behaviors appear to account for about 33% of the disparities in disability onset found among women survivors, and about 9–14% among men survivors. These findings suggest that within the U.S. elderly population, behavioral risks such as smoking and physical inactivity contribute moderately to maintaining socioeconomic inequalities in health. As such, promoting healthier lifestyles among the socioeconomically disadvantaged older adults should help to reduce later life health inequalities.
Aging; socioeconomic status; smoking; physical activity; obesity; disability; mortality
For many traditional, non-industrialized populations, intensive and prolonged breastfeeding buffers infant health against poverty, poor sanitation, and limited health care. Due to novel influences on local economies, values, and beliefs, the traditional and largely beneficial breastfeeding patterns of such populations may be changing to the detriment of infant health. To assess if and why such changes are occurring in a traditional breastfeeding population, we document breastfeeding patterns in the Bolivian Tsimane, a forager-horticulturalist population in the early stages of modernization. Three predictions are developed and tested to evaluate the general hypothesis that modernizing influences encourage less intensive breastfeeding in the Tsimane: 1) Tsimane mothers in regions of higher infant mortality will practice more intensive BF; 2) Tsimane mothers who are located closer to a local market town will practice more intensive BF; and 3) Older Tsimane mothers will practice more intensive BF. Predictions were tested using a series of maternal interviews (from 2003-2011, n=215) and observations of mother-infant dyads (from 2002-2007, n=133). Tsimane breastfeeding patterns were generally intensive: 72% of mothers reported initiating BF within a few hours of birth, mean (± SD) age of CF introduction was 4.1±2.0 months, and mean (± SD) weaning age was 19.2±7.3 months. There was, however, intra-population variation in several dimensions of breastfeeding (initiation, frequency, duration, and complementary feeding). Contrary to our predictions, breastfeeding was most intensive in the most modernized Tsimane villages, and maternal age was not a significant predictor of breastfeeding patterns. Regional differences accounted for variation in most dimensions of breastfeeding (initiation, frequency, and complementary feeding). Future research should therefore identify constraints on breastfeeding in the less modernized Tsimane regions, and examine the formation of maternal beliefs regarding infant feeding.
breastfeeding; infancy; complementary feeding; weaning; modernization; acculturation; indigenous; behavior; Tsimane
Depression and stress have been linked with poor contraceptive behavior, but whether existing mental health symptoms influence women's subsequent risk of unintended pregnancy is unclear. We prospectively examined the effect of depression and stress symptoms on young women's pregnancy risk over one year. We used panel data from a longitudinal study of 992 U.S. women ages 18-20 years who reported a strong desire to avoid pregnancy. Weekly journal surveys measured relationship, contraceptive use and pregnancy outcomes. We examined 27,572 journal surveys from 940 women over the first study year. Our outcome was self-reported pregnancy. At baseline, we assessed moderate/severe depression (CESD-5) and stress (PSS-4) symptoms. We estimated the effect of baseline mental health symptoms on pregnancy risk with discrete-time, mixed-effects, proportional hazard models using logistic regression. At baseline, 24% and 23% of women reported moderate/severe depression and stress symptoms, respectively. Ten percent of young women not intending pregnancy became pregnant during the study. Rates of pregnancy were higher among women with baseline depression (14% vs. 9%, p=0.04) and stress (15% vs. 9%, p=0.03) compared to women without symptoms. In multivariable models, the risk of pregnancy was 1.6 times higher among women with stress symptoms compared to those without stress (aRR 1.6, CI 1.1,2.7). Women with co-occurring stress and depression symptoms had over twice the risk of pregnancy (aRR 2.1, CI 1.1,3.8) compared to those without symptoms. Among women without a prior pregnancy, having co-occurring stress and depression symptoms was the strongest predictor of subsequent pregnancy (aRR 2.3, CI 1.2,4.3), while stress alone was the strongest predictor among women with a prior pregnancy (aRR 3.0, CI 1.1,8.8). Depression symptoms were not independently associated with young women's pregnancy risk. In conclusion, stress, and especially co-occurring stress and depression symptoms, consistently and adversely influenced these young women's risk of unintended pregnancy over one year.
United States; unintended pregnancy; mental health; depression; stress; adolescent women
Physicians in the United States are now less likely to practice in smaller, more traditional, solo practices, and more likely to practice in larger group practices. Though older theory predicts conflict between bureaucracy and professional autonomy, studies have shown that professions in general, and physicians in particular, have adapted to organizational constraints. However, much work remains in clarifying the nature of this relationship and how exactly physicians have adapted to various organizational settings. To this end, the present study examines physicians’ autonomy experiences in different decision types between organization sizes. Specifically, I ask: In what kinds of decisions do doctors perceive autonomous control? How does this vary by organizational size? Using stacked “spell” data constructed from the Community Tracking Study (CTS) Physician Survey (1996–2005) (n=16,519) I examine how physicians’ perceptions of autonomy vary between solo/two physician practices, small group practices with three to ten physicians, and large practices with ten or more physicians, in two kinds of decisions: logistic-based and knowledge-based decisions. Capitalizing on the longitudinal nature of the data I estimate how changes in practice size are associated with perceptions of autonomy, accounting for previous reports of autonomy. I also test whether managed care involvement, practice ownership, and salaried employment help explain part of this relationship. I find that while physicians practicing in larger group practices reported lower levels of autonomy in logistic-based decisions, physicians in solo/two physician practices reported lower levels of autonomy in knowledge-based decisions. Managed care involvement and ownership explain some, but not all, of the associations. These findings suggest that professional adaptation to various organizational settings can lead to varying levels of perceived autonomy across different kinds of decisions.
US; physicians; professions; autonomy; organizations; healthcare
This article examines the diffusion of U.S. state child passenger safety laws, analyzing over-time changes and inter-state differences in all identifiable features of laws that plausibly influence crash-related morbidity and mortality. The observed trend shows many states’ continuing efforts to update their laws to be consistent with latest motor vehicle safety recommendations, with each state modifying their laws on average 6 times over the 30-year period. However, there has been a considerable time lag in knowledge diffusion and policy adoption. Even though empirical evidence supporting the protective effect of child restraint devices was available in the early 1970s, laws requiring their use were not adopted by all 50 states until 1986. For laws requiring minors to be seated in rear seats, the first state law adoption did not occur until two decades after the evidence became publicly available. As of 2010, only 12 states explicitly required the use of booster seats, 9 for infant seats and 6 for toddler seats. There is also great variation among states in defining the child population to be covered by the laws, the vehicle operators subject to compliance, and the penalties resulting from non-compliance. Some states cover only up to 4-year-olds while others cover children up to age 17. As of 2010, states have as many as 14 exemptions, such as those for non-residents, non-parents, commercial vehicles, large vehicles, or vehicles without seatbelts. Factors such as the complexity of the state of the science, the changing nature of guidelines (from age to height/weight-related criteria), and the absence of coordinated federal actions are potential explanations for the observed patterns. The resulting uneven policy landscape among states suggests a strong need for improved communication among state legislators, public health researchers, advocates and concerned citizen groups to promote more efficient and effective policymaking.
Child passenger safety law; child restraint; seat belt law; public health law; traffic safety; policy diffusion; United States
This paper discusses labor migration as an example of how focusing on the meso-level highlights the social processes through which structural factors produce HIV risk. Situating that argument in relation to existing work on economic organization and HIV risk as well as research on labor migration and HIV vulnerabilities, the paper demonstrates how analyzing the processes through which labor migration creates vulnerability can shift attention away from the proximate behavioral determinants of HIV risk and towards the community and policy levels. Further, it presents the concepts of externalities and the ethics of consumption, which underline how both producers and consumers benefit from low-waged migrant labor, and thus are responsible for the externalization of HIV risk characteristic of supply chains that rely on migrant labor. These concepts point to strategies through which researchers and advocates could press the public and private sectors to improve the conditions in which migrants live and work, with implications for HIV as well as other health outcomes.
Latino immigrants exhibit health declines with increasing duration in the United States, which some attribute to a loss in social status after migration or downward social mobility. Yet, research into the distribution of perceived social mobility and patterned associations to Latino health is sparse, despite extensive research to show that economic and social advancement is a key driver of voluntary migration. We investigated Latino immigrant sub-ethnic group variation in the distribution of perceived social mobility, defined as the difference between respondents’ perceived social status of origin had they remained in their country of origin and their current social status in the U.S. We also examined the association between perceived social mobility and past-year major depressive episode (MDE) and self-rated fair/poor physical health, and whether Latino sub-ethnicity moderated these associations. We computed weighted logistic regression analyses using subsample (N = 1561 the Latino immigrant) of the National Latino and Asian American Study. Puerto Rican migrants were more likely to perceive downward social mobility relative to Mexican and Cuban immigrants who were more likely to perceive upward social mobility. Perceived downward social mobility was associated with increased odds of fair/poor physical health and MDE. Latino sub-ethnicity was a statistically significant moderator, such that perceived downward social mobility was associated with higher odds of MDE only among Puerto Rican and Other Latino immigrants. In contrast, perceived upward social mobility was not associated with self-rated fair/poor physical health. Our findings suggest that perceived downward social mobility might be an independent correlate of health among Latino immigrants, and might help explain Latino sub-ethnic group differences in mental health status. Future studies on Latino immigrant health should use prospective designs to examine the physiological and psychological costs associated with perceived changes in social status with integration into the U.S. mainland.
USA; Hispanic; Major depressive episode; Physical health; Socioeconomic status; Subjective social status; Immigrants; Health disparities
The death of a child is one of the most traumatic events that a parent can experience. The psychological and physical consequences of bereavement are well established, and the consequences are more severe for mothers than fathers. However, little is known about how the death of an adult child affects parental wellbeing in old age or how the deceased child’s sex may moderate the association. We use data from the Taiwanese Longitudinal Study of Aging (TLSA) to investigate how the death of a son or a daughter differentially affects the wellbeing of older parents, measured by depressive symptoms and self-rated health. We find that for mothers, a son’s death is associated with an increase in depressive symptoms and a decline in self-rated health, but fathers’ health is not adversely affected by a son’s death. There is little evidence that a daughter’s death has a negative effect on either maternal or paternal wellbeing. We situate these findings within their social and cultural contexts and discuss social policies that would reduce gender and health inequality.
Death of a child; sex; wellbeing; depressive symptoms; self-rated health; Taiwan
AIDS stigmas interfere with HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment and can become internalized by people living with HIV/AIDS. However, the effects of internalized AIDS stigmas have not been investigated in Africa, home to two-thirds of the more than 40 million people living with AIDS in the world. The current study examined the prevalence of discrimination experiences and internalized stigmas among 420 HIV positive men and 643 HIV positive women recruited from AIDS services in Cape Town, South Africa. The anonymous surveys found that 40% of persons with HIV/AIDS had experienced discrimination resulting from having HIV infection and one in five had lost a place to stay or a job because of their HIV status. More than one in three participants indicated feeling dirty, ashamed, or guilty because of their HIV status. A hierarchical regression model that included demographic characteristics, health and treatment status, social support, substance use, and internalized stigma significantly predicted cognitive-affective depression. Internalized stigma accounted for 4.8% of the variance in cognitive-affective depression scores over and above the other variables. These results indicate an urgent need for social reform to reduce AIDS stigmas and the design of interventions to assist people living with HIV/AIDS to adjust and adapt to the social conditions of AIDS in South Africa.
Internalized stigma; AIDS; coping; South Africa; Discrimination; Depression
This paper describes a shift in medical education away from pedagogic approaches to stigma and inequalities that emphasize cross-cultural understandings of individual patients, toward attention to forces that influence health outcomes at levels above individual interactions. It reviews existing structural approaches to stigma and health inequalities developed outside of medicine, and proposes changes to U.S. medical education that will infuse clinical training with a structural focus. The approach, termed “structural competency,” consists of training in five core competencies: 1) recognizing the structures that shape clinical interactions; 2) developing an extra-clinical language of structure; 3) rearticulating “cultural” formulations in structural terms; 4) observing and imagining structural interventions; and 5) developing structural humility. Examples are provided of structural health scholarship that should be adopted into medical didactic curricula, and of structural interventions that can provide participant-observation opportunities for clinical trainees. The paper ultimately argues that increasing recognition of the ways in which social and economic forces produce symptoms or methylate genes then needs to be better coupled with medical models for structural change.
Stigma; Cultural competency; Medical education; Social determinates of health
This study investigated the utilization of services around HIV testing in Burkina Faso through a survey that combined quantitative and qualitative data from 14 selected sites and 299 questionnaires. While some attitudes and behaviors towards HIV testing were similar for women and men, we found lower use of services by men, greater concerns about testing and disclosure on the part of women, and differences between men and women in motivations to test, and the experience of testing and its consequences. The results are discussed in the context of Burkina Faso and in terms of their implications for efforts to improve access to services around HIV.
HIV; Gender; HIV testing; Counseling; Burkina Faso; Use of services
The apolitical legitimacy of "evidence-based medicine" offers a practical means for ethnography and critical social-science-and-humanities-of-health theory to transfer survival resources to structurally vulnerable populations and to engage policy and services audiences with urgent political problems imposed on the urban poor in the United States that harm health: most notably, homelessness, hyperincarceration, social service cut-backs and the War on Drugs. We present four examples of collaborations between ethnography and clinical research projects that demonstrate the potentials and limits of promoting institutional reform, political debate and action through distinct strategies of cross-methodological dialogue with epidemiological and clinical services research. Ethnographic methods alone, however, are simply a technocratic add-on. They must be informed by critical theory to contribute effectively and transformatively to applied health initiatives. Ironically, technocratic, neoliberal logics of cost-effectiveness can sometimes render radical service and policy reform initiatives institutionally credible, fundable and capable of generating wider political support, even though the rhetoric of economic efficacy is a double-edged sword. To extend the impact of ethnography and interdisciplinary theories of political-economic, cultural and disciplinary power relations into applied clinical and public health research, anthropologists--and their fellow travelers--have to be able to strategically, but respectfully learn to see through the positivist logics of clinical services research as well as epidemiological epistemology in order to help clinicians achieve--and extend--their applied priorities. In retrospect, these four very differently-structured collaborations suggest the potential for "good-enough” humble scientific and political strategies to work for, and with, structurally vulnerable populations in a punitive neoliberal era of rising social inequality, cutbacks of survival services, and hyperincarceration of the poor.