Toward a Definition of Health Risks for Ethnic Minorities: The Case of Hypertension and Heart Disease

  • Jerry L. Weaver
Part of the Current Topics in Mental Health book series (CTMH)


Recent epidemiologic studies have revealed that Asian Americans, Blacks, Chicanos, and native Americans have rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, mental illness, drug abuse, and other health problems well above the national norm. In seeking an explanation for these elevated risk levels, some analysts have pointed to the diet, living conditions, and health care behavior of members of the communities as the sources of many health problems (Suchman, 1964, 1965). For example, studies of the health care behavior of Chicanos in rural areas of the Southwest present a picture of belief in magical sources of many diseases and disabilities; a preference for seeking care from folk healers, family, friends and other “unscientific” providers; and an unwillingness to be hospitalized (Kiev, 1968; Sanders, 1954; also see Weaver, 1973). Similar behavior and attitudes are reported among traditional Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and other Asian populations. Blacks are said to avoid private physicians and dentists and to rely heavily on over-the-counter nostrums. Traditional diets of ethnic minorities are said to be deficient for promoting good health, especially for at-risk individuals such as babies and the elderly. Taken together, the patterns of behavior and beliefs about the causes and cures of illnesses that deviate from the “norms” of the larger (White) society have come to be labeled health care subcultures. Thus, in explaining the high mortality rates of Chicano infants, for instance, some observers put much of the blame on the “Chicano subculture” which keeps sick children away from physicians and hospitals until it is too late (for an analysis of this literature, see Weaver, 1976).


Ethnic Minority High Blood Pressure Black Male Minority Community Pacific People 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New york 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jerry L. Weaver
    • 1
  1. 1.U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentUSA

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