Purdue University Professor Seeks To Reduce Health Disparities Among Blacks
The Michigan City News Dispatch on Wednesday profiled Sharron Jenkins, an assistant professor of chemistry at Purdue University-North Central, who was prompted by "startling" health statistics among blacks to "use her membership in the ... community as a way to deliver 'culturally sensitive education.'" Blacks have higher death rates for a number of health conditions, including heart disease, cancer and stroke, and on average die seven years earlier than the general U.S. population, according to the News Dispatch.
Jenkins, author of the book "African American Health Disparities: Obesity, Stress and Your Health," said the health problems in the black population are in part due to a long history of segregation and discrimination. For example, she said the tradition of eating fried, unhealthy foods among blacks can be traced back to slavery when slaves were forced to eat whatever kind of food that was available to them. Aside from historical factors, there is "a complexity of issues" that result in the health disparities among blacks, she said, adding that prevention education is key in addressing the problem.
Jenkins organizes events that include entertainment by top black music artists, food, giveaways and other activities to encourage blacks to participate in community health workshops. She also has recently developed a three-credit, online biology elective course for PNC students that examines the sexual behavior of college-age students as part of an effort to address the high HIV/AIDS rate in the black community. "About 75% to 80% of new HIV/AIDS cases are in the African-American community, which is 13% of the population," she said. "That's insanity," she added (Wink, Michigan City News Dispatch, 2/25).