Date of Publication

6-2-2017

Degree Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Kinesiology, Sport Studies and Physical Education

First Advisor

Dr. Ronald Mower, Associate Professor, KSSPE

Abstract

Throughout history, researchers have continuously noted the connections between health, its social determinants, and the role that systemic racism has had in creating health disparities including lower life expectancies for black Americans. When compared with other racial groups in the country, African American males and females have experienced shorter life expectancies than the national averages for centuries. People of color are geared toward certain lifestyles because of their history and are sometimes at a disadvantage in regards to achieving and maintaining good health. Rather than accept these instances in history as the causes of racial health disparities, many cite lifestyle as a primary cause, suggesting that health outcomes are simply a matter of individual choice. This ideology, known as healthism, fails to acknowledge how the social determinants of health can impact one’s ability to directly control his or her own health within constrained conditions. The purpose of this study is to analyze the historical underpinnings of racial disparities in health and how they ultimately impact life expectancy in addition to displaying that the healthism ideology is not basis for biological explanation. A collection of articles pertaining to this subject matter were examined from authors in different disciplines including scientists, health professionals, and sociologists. Most writings consisted of studies completed and conclusions drawn from them. Although studies were done from different perspectives and in different disciplines, overall, authors agree that the vestiges of African American oppression in early American history have an influence on various social determinants, especially socioeconomic status, which in turn has an effect on health and ultimately life expectancy.

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