African Americans express more motivation to pursue a healthier lifestyle than non-African Americans, yet are less likely to describe themselves as being in good health, according to recent findings from the African American Health Engagement Study (AAHES), a collaboration of Pfizer, the National Medical Association (NMA) and the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA). The AAHES study examines the health attitudes and behaviors of African Americans and reveals important health-related cultural differences compared to other non-African American respondent groups. Areas of focus in the study include spiritual health relative to other dimensions of health; awareness of and attitudes towards clinical trial participation; perception of state of health; and level of motivation to take action on health.

The AAHES research, which commenced in 2017, is designed to garner insights that could inform meaningful and effective actions to increase health equity in African American communities. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, African Americans face a greater risk of death at almost every stage of life compared with other American racial and ethnic groups, and African Americans overall have a life expectancy more than three years shorter than that of non-African Americans.

“Our mission is to ensure access to the highest quality of healthcare for persons of color,” said Eric J. Williams, DNP, RN, CNE, FAAN, President, National Black Nurses Association. “Our participation in the study helps us better understand health attitudes and behaviors of African Americans. Through our partnership with Pfizer and the National Medical Association, we are working to develop a sustainable plan of action that will make an impact on critical disparities that affect the health of our community.”

Key findings of the AAHES study include:

• 84 percent of African American study participants described themselves as “highly motivated to improve overall health,” compared with 76 percent of non-African American participants. Moreover, 75 percent of African American respondents claimed to be taking some action to stay healthy, compared to only 52 percent of non-African American respondents.

• 67 percent of African Americans surveyed agreed with the statement “I will do better on my health tomorrow,” compared with 53% of non-African Americans surveyed.

• 36 percent of all African American study participants ranked their overall health (including physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual health) as “very good” or “excellent,” compared to 43% of study participants in other groups.

• 79 percent of African American study participants viewed spiritual health as extremely or very important to overall health and wellness, compared to 59% of non-African American participants.45% of African Americans reported being satisfied with their body regardless of weight, compared to 36% of respondents in other groups.

• 87 percent of African American participants believe African Americans are not well-represented in clinical trials, but only 33 percent of African American women and 41 percent of African American men stated that they are willing to enroll in a trial if it means changing or starting medication.

When it comes to trusted sources of health and medical information, African American respondents said that they place their highest level of trust in medical organizations focused on African Americans. African Americans’ least trusted sources for health-related information are widely used media channels, such as cable news and commercial broadcast networks.

Doris Browne, M.D. President, National Medical Association, said, “As the collective voice for African American physicians and the leading voice for parity and justice in medicine and increasing health equity, the National Medical Association, in alliance with the National Black Nurses Association and Pfizer, will work together to address the underlying causes of health inequity with greater creativity, innovation, and precision.”

The death rates for African American women from heart disease and breast cancer are far greater than that of other women in America (CDC Health, United States 2016 Report). African American men of all ages experience higher mortality than men of other races and ethnicities and have significantly higher rates of malignancies such as prostate cancer (CDC Health, United States 2016 Report).

“We see our partnership with the National Black Nurses Association and the National Medical Association as a critical way to increase trust and communication and better meet the health needs of African Americans,” said Freda Lewis-Hall, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President, Pfizer. “Certain medical conditions are more prevalent and devastating for African Americans and other populations of color; diversity in clinical trials is one critical approach to closing disparity gaps. African Americans account for 12 percent of the U.S. population but makeup only five percent of clinical trial participants. When it comes to increasing African American participation in clinical trials, we cannot overstate the importance of trust and collaboration.”

Beyond clinical trial awareness and recruiting, the AAHES provides insight into other areas where the organizations can work together to increase health equity, including increasing the capacity of African American health care provider organizations; facilitating more effective health-seeking behaviors in African Americans through health education and community initiatives; and defining and launching targeted initiatives to respond to specific health care needs in African American communities.

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