How Can Psychologists Help Reduce Health Disparities in America?

80377215It doesn’t seem to make sense: Black American women with college degrees have higher infant mortality rates than the most disadvantaged and uneducated women of every other race and ethnicity, with the exception of American Indians. This is just one of several sobering facts revealed at a Thursday APA convention symposium titled “Disentagling Race/Ethnicity and SES – Implications for Understanding and Reducing Health Disparities.”

Presenter David Williams, PhD, of Harvard University explained that these striking racial disparities often occur because health is affected not only by their current socio-economic status (SES), but also by exposure to adversity over their entire lives.

“Those African American college-educated women are more likely to be the first generation to attend college, they’re more likely to be born poor and of low birth weight, with less access to nutrition and medical care,” Williams said.

Psychologists have a key role to play in developing interventions to mitigate the negative effects of race and SES on health, said APA President Norman B. Anderson, PhD. In particular, he pointed to the success of some family-based training programs in improving biological, behavioral and cognitive outcomes among children from minority and low SES households. He also shared information on APA’s ongoing work to address health disparities, including the 2012 Summit on Obesity in African American Women and Girls and the association’s newly formed working group on stress and health disparities.

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