Dr. Tatum on Wellness, page 2...
I often think of Wandra when I think of what the US Surgeon General has said – this generation of young people will have a shorter lifespan than their parents. I shared the Surgeon General’s statement with the incoming class of students at Spelman – the Class of 2016 – and you could hear an audible gasp in the room when I told them that they would not live as long as I am expected to. But you will gasp when I tell you this. Based on our analysis of the health forms submitted by the Class of 2016, 50% - that is 5-0 – already have hypertension, Type II diabetes, or some other chronic disease usually associated with a population of much older people. 50%! My guess if we had data from other HBCUs, we would find similar statistics or worse! Folks, our young people are in trouble, and we have to do something about it.
Now, Spelman, as you know serves a population of women, almost all of whom are of African descent. We can easily say that these are best and the brightest of their generation. We are investing a tremendous amount of time and talent into their development, an investment which will transform their lives and the communities they will impact, just like so many of you have – but will they live long enough to make that impact? Will they have the healthy quality of life needed to truly deliver on the promise of their potential?
It is a daunting thing to speak about health issues to an audience of health professionals. I know many of you are familiar with the statistics I am about to provide – but bear with me for a moment. We know that there are continuing disparities in the incidence of illness and death among African Americans and other communities of color.
WE know that: African-Americans are less likely to get regular medical checkups, receive immunizations, and be routinely tested for cancer than European Americans. Current studies document that despite recent advances, African-American and Native American babies still die at a rate that is two to three times higher than the rate for White American babies. Diabetes is among the leading causes of death in the United States – more than 16 million people in the US have diabetes. African-Americans as a group are almost twice as likely to have diabetes than Whites and have higher rates of diabetes related complications such as kidney disease and amputation as compared to the total population.