|Understanding the Social Determinants of Health Among African-American Men|
|By Barbara Granner, National Commission on Correctional Health Care|
Social determinants of health are defined as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age – the complex social structures and economic systems that are responsible for most health disparities. An understanding of those conditions and their effects can help correctional professionals who work with African-American male inmates, especially in mental health-related situations.
Mark Fleming, PhD, CCHP-MH, vice president of operations for Corizon Health, explored “The Social Determinants of Health Among African-American Men: Diagnostic and Treatment Implications” at the National Commission on Correctional Health Care’s National Conference in November, along with associates Scott Eliason, MD, CCHP-MH, regional psychiatric director, and Adam Love, PsyD, clinical director.
Dr. Fleming listed the following social determinants of health:
In addition to those factors and attitudes toward African-American men within the wider society, many black males hold certain ideas about themselves, as men, that are counterproductive when dealing with the stresses of life, said Dr. Fleming. While every individual is unique, understanding these common cultural attitudes, he said, can make clinical and therapeutic transactions more effective and productive – a win-win.
Men in general, and black men in particular, tend to be socialized to value control, power and competition. They don’t like to show vulnerability for fear of being judged as not a “real man” and as a rule are not interested in self-exploration. “Not only do black men avoid self-disclosure in life, but they also hold negative attitudes toward help-seeking behavior,” he said.
Many black men live with a sense of invisibility, “an inner struggle with the feeling that one’s talents, abilities, personality and worth are not valued or even recognized because of prejudice and racism,” according to Dr. Fleming.
They also tend to be suspicious of doctors, therapists and security staff, and may see them as extensions of the oppressive system. This “healthy cultural paranoia,” as Dr. Fleming calls it is not particularly conducive to the possibility of change and growth.
Dr. Fleming suggests that the following approaches can break through those roadblocks and be effective for both mental health professionals and others who interact with this population.
Dr. Fleming will be presenting a preconference seminar on cultural competency at the Spring Conference on Correctional Health Care, April 21-24 in Minneapolis. Go to Spring Conferences on Correctional Health Care for more information.
Barbara Granner is marketing and communications manager at the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
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