Primordial prevention of cardiovascular disease among African-Americans: a social epidemiological perspective.
BACKGROUND: The primordial prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) among African-Americans represents a formidable challenge for public health. This paper discusses the nature of this challenge, highlighting the role that economic and cultural factors play in shaping the distributions of major CVD risk factors among African-Americans. The paper concludes with specific suggestions for research. METHODS: Data from recent national health surveys on black/white differences in major CVD risk factors like hypertension, obesity, cholesterol, cigarette smoking, and physical inactivity were reviewed for the purpose of identifying promising avenues for primordial prevention research among African-Americans. RESULTS: Cigarette smoking has a delayed onset among African-Americans compared to whites. Black/white differences in "vigorous" leisure-time physical activity (e.g., social dancing and team sports) are not apparent until around age 40. These findings have relevance for primordial prevention work in black communities since they suggest the existence of broad-based, health-relevant cultural norms which could support primordial prevention programs, such as regular physical activity, across the life cycle. CONCLUSIONS: CVD primordial prevention programs among African-Americans must be grounded in an understanding of how cultural values as well as economic conditions shape CVD risk factor distributions in this population. Ultimate success will depend on the strength of the partnerships that public health researchers, primary care providers, and community residents are able to build.
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