Friday, February 28, 2014


For this searcher post, I decided to look more into the decline in health of those exposed to high levels of stress, more specifically stress due to racism. I noticed that this topic ties in with the “Zebra Book Chapters” in that stress is not only due to physical racism, but also just the thought of it.  Due to racial profiling, certain groups are in constant anticipation of racism which, just the thought of it, is enough to trigger the stress response resulting in a chronic affliction. The constant fear of discrimination increases stress levels which therefore increases blood pressure which damages and wears out the heart. A recent study by Kathryn Freeman Anderson found that a significant amount of African American participants experienced both emotional and physical stress compared to white people. This large discrepancy can explain the seemingly racially preferred disease.  A lot of individuals try to cope with stress in unhealthy ways such as smoking, drinking, reckless behavior, etc. that will obviously damage their health. It is also known that not everyone is able to access the same healthcare as others only leading to more stress. I feel if we can extinguish the cause of increase stress among the racial groups we would not see a difference in disease among them.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Searcher: Perceived Racism

For this week’s searcher post I decided to further research a topic that was brought up in class about the effects of perceived racism among individuals. More specifically, how perceived racism and stress levels are correlated. In a study conducted by Sellers et al, 2003, it was concluded that people of certain ethnicities that had strong racial ties to them (i.e Black, Latino, Asian) were more prone reporting ethnic discrimination in their everyday lives. In a broader sense, they stated the more one believed that his/ her race was a core component of his/ her identity, the more they would attribute ambiguous statements about race as being racist. The effects of perceived racism as well as how frequently it occurs, ultimately leads to higher levels of stress. In as study by Din-Dzietham et al, 2004, “found that rural African–American male workers who perceived ‘race as hindrance to job success’ had an 8 mm Hg higher [blood pressure] than those who perceived that race helped them.” This study was also interesting as it compared the stress levels of African Americans when subjected to racism from non-African Americans as well as from other African Americans. It was reported that higher rises in blood pressure were seen in the latter than in the former- suggesting that intra-group discrimination was more distressful than inter-group discrimination.

To begin my search, I intended to compare the health statistics between average African American populations in the Civil Rights Era to African Americans living now. I theorized that since Black persecution and racism was at remarkably high and overt levels in the civil rights era compared to present day, health issues such as infant mortality and heart diseases should be observably decreasing from the 1940's until now. I thought that infant mortality rates would naturally decrease as obvious racism was seemingly decreasing in the American public, and African American's and White citizens were slowly becoming assimilated. However, an article on the LCRM Project went into extensive detail on the growing disparity between White and African American communities. As time has progressed since the Civil Rights Era, Whites and Blacks have actually steadily grown more separate as communities and in residencies. For the first time in history all African American communities have formed, and predominately African American communities have since enjoyed little of the equivalent health care opportunities that White Americans are privileged to. Social isolation has historically shown a strong correlation with health and mental issues in communities experiencing this lack of contact. The isolation of African American communities proves that in some parts of the country very little progress is being made in combating racism and prejudice in the minds of both White and Non White Americans. Similarly, there is a noticeable gap widening between the health wellness of Blacks and White in America. Black infant mortality is at a strikingly high level, more than doubling that of Non Hispanic Whites. The racism and the prejudice experienced by these communities attributes strongly to the pyschosocial theory discussed in class. The stresses of constantly being discriminated against as a race has a notable adverse effect on the health of individuals, and this isolation felt by a huge majority of African American's from the rest of the population of America can only encourage the prejudice and internalized negative feelings forced on this population by society.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


In my last blog as a first reader I thought that internalized sexism could affect health like the other stressors we discussed. I believe that internalized racism affect health long term in the same way, and after Monday’s lecture about hyper alertness and vigilance behavior, I wanted to find evidence that this sort of condition exists. I found a video on youtube composed of multiple studies that show strong evidence of internalized racism at varying young ages. In the study African American and Latino children were faced with a white baby doll and a black baby doll. When asked which one was pretty, they chose the white doll. When asked which one was good, they again chose the white doll. When asked which one was bad, they chose the black doll. When asked which one was ugly, the black doll once more. The researchers asked why these children felt negatively about dark skin and they responded, “I don’t know.” Then, white children were faced with five different pictures of children that ranged from pale white to dark brown. The white children replicated the same answers the african american gave and when asked why the dark skin was bad they responded, “Because they are black.” I believe that vigilance behavior creates a stress response that is lasting and permanent that can have long term serious effects on health. Stereotype threat, the fear of never adhering to negative stereotypes about your race can also cause a long term stress response. Out of the five models of that account for health disparities I think the psycho stress model and structural constructionist models are the most accurate. Feeling that ones skin color is lesser to that of another’s, and feeling negative toward ones own identity at such a young age shows just how prevalent internalized racism is. These children are aware of the negative stereotypes surrounding their own skin color and the stereotypes surrounding the skin color of others. Constant reminders in the media and from interpersonal experiences like other children and adults have shaped their understanding of themselves. In tune with the readings for this week, I believe that all other models have some bearing. All of them combined, taking into account other factors like genetics and health behaviors plus genetics, can all play a role in health outcomes. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

First Response Week 6: Race and Health

I found the Dressler et al. article to be extremely interesting. I have heard about the disparities between races in health, specifically African Americans and white Americans, but have never given much thought as to why there would be such a large difference. When looking at the different hypotheses there were several that I thought would work and was surprised that for some ideas the evidence was not strong enough to support that hypothesis. For example I thought that the health-behavior model, in which a person’s individual choices would affect their health, would have been a good factor for why there was a large disparity. The authors noted that once the individual choices were accounted for, there was still a large gap between the health of African Americans and whites. I found this very surprising. My next thought would be that one’s economic status would have an effect on health, especially when we learned about how rank in society can affect how much people stress which influences their health. Instead it was found that this also was not enough to explain the disparity. The one idea that I did think would have an influence and did seem to have evidence that it played a part, was the psychosocial stress model, which looked at how racism and perceived racism affected people. I can understand why that would have an effect as people have to deal with that extra stress in their lives. What I did not get from this article was that these could possibly be combined and several of these hypotheses could be the cause for the health gap between races. It seems that they were looking for one hypothesis that would explain everything. I think that is too simple, since as humans we are very complicated and to me it seems like there are always multiple reasons why something happens or why society is structured in a certain way. I think these hypotheses could be combined, once there is more research, to help complete the big picture

The other article was also interesting although I would have liked if it went into more detail of how being a minority affected health (was it because of racism in health practices or was it just stress that took its toll on people) and not just that it seems to have an effect. 

Health Disparities

This week's reading focuses on Race and Ethnicity in Public Health Research. As a Community Health major, this is definitely a major focus of the public health community. After almost four years, health disparities have boiled down to race, ethnicity, and overall socioeconomic status. After completing the reading by Dressler, Oths, and Gravlee, these bases are reaffirmed. However, the article gives specific models as to explain why these disparities exist.

I found the epidemiological evidence to be most interesting because I almost aspired to be an epidemiologist and I like to see the differences in health among various cultures. These differences are explained through the different studies mentioned in the article. However, the combination of overall health disparities and educational disparities really strikes me because the main focus of health care now is prevention and education so that we can lower the chronic diseases in the United States.

I also thought this article was quite interesting because although I have previously examined these models, I still find the socioeconomic status model to be the most prominent. Now-a-days, you see that the United States has definitely become more diverse, but it still seems as if Caucasian individuals are the majority of the population and that they hold more wealth than, say, blacks or Hispanics and this creates major differences in health care; specifically access, environment, and overall costs. It is proven time and time again that these major differences between populations negatively affect the minority populations.

Often I found that I couldn't just rely on one model because other models also fit certain criterion for the sample population. However, I am curious to see how these models may change over time seeing as the classification of races may become muddled based on the fact that there will be more multi-racial children. (I mention this because I because my mom is Mexican and my dad is Caucasian, and I wonder if I would skew data or if researchers take things like this into account.) So, would this change the previous data significantly? I suppose only time will tell. I'd love to hear other thoughts about these models and other possible outcomes.

First Reader Response - Negative Effects of Racism and "Othering" on Health

I found the reading this week incredibly interesting as more because it focused less on the biological aspects of a problem and more on the ways in which socioeconomics can affect all aspects of health.  Especially in the Dressler reading, it is evident that many health professionals have difficulty thinking about race as both a biological construction and a “culturally constructed identity” (Dressler 232).  The most surprising point in the Dressler article was the short discussion on smoking.  I would have thought the socioeconomic status of racial difference would influence the percentage of smokers much more than it did.  In fact, Dressler mentions, “Smoking is not a factor likely to account for health disparities because there is virtually no difference in rates of smoking between black and white men” (Dressler 237).  I also found the paper’s mentions of stress effecting health pertinent to our readings from last week.  I was most surprised reading the Viruell-Fuentes research because I through the results would have demonstrated greater “othering” noted by first generation women.  However, upon reading the article, it made perfect sense why second generation women experienced and felt stressed and victimized a significantly more by non-Hispanic peers.  At first I was confused as to how the data the team received related to health, but in the final stages and conclusions of their research, the health aspect came to light and I was able to relate the previous Dressler article to predict the outcomes of “othering” on health as a psychosocial stressor which could have a negative impact. 

Dressler, William W.  Oths, Kathryn S.  Gravlee, Clarence C.  Race and Ethnicity in Public Health Research: Models to Explain Health Disparities.  Annual Reviews.  2005. 

Race and Health

I never would have made the connection of race and health being tied together, well not until I read the Viruell-Fuents study. What really surprised me was that I actually had thoughts and opinions on this topic and I never knew I did. I really enjoyed reading the study; it got me to think a bit and actually realize a few things. I was not surprised by the fact the first generation immigrants have better health than second generation immigrants. Without even reading the study I know that immigrants tend to stay together when they arrive instead of branch out. I know when I was in Germany, not as an immigrant, but I was there for a few months, I tried to stay with people who spoke the same language. This I am sure first generation immigrants would have tried to do as well. Of course they would have been stressed but they were not thrown into a completely new environment like the second generation immigrants. The second generation would experience the stressors of branching out, since they would not have as big a culture and language barrier. They would have a lot more to deal with than those of the first generation. Since they would have more stress in their lives, it would only make since that they would have poorer health than the other.
I have always tried to stay away from the topic of health, and I am really starting to understand that health does have a lot to do with culture. I am amazed that this took me by surprise.

First Reader: Race and Health

            The most interesting part about this weeks reading for me was the Viruell-Fuentes study about how socio economic status affects the health of immigrants. I thought that the results of the study would be the opposite of what they were, that second generation immigrants would have better health than first generation immigrants as opposed to first generation having better health than second generation immigrants.
            I found the fact that that the first generation immigrants had better health interesting and shocking because I thought that because the first generation had all the added stress of coming to a new country and trying to make a life there, that they would have worse health. On top of that, I didn’t realize that because most immigrants tend to settle in certain areas, they didn’t have as much exposure to racial problems as the second generation immigrants who begin to branch out more into the U.S.

            In the study that was in the reading, Mexican women, both first generation immigrants and second generation immigrants were interviewed about their experiences here in the U.S. It was found that first generation Mexicans were not exposed as much to “others” or as they called it “othering”. Therefore they may not have the added stresses of racial dynamics. They reported less othering than second generation Mexicans. This is what contributed a good amount to first generation immigrants having better health than the second generation. I never knew that race played such a crucial part in ones overall health.

Dressler Reading : First Reader

It seems that there is a disparity of health between white Americans and black Americans, where black Americans are, on average, less healthy in almost every department than white Americans. The Dressler reading discusses five theoretical models that could act as explanations for the disparity in health.

·         Racial-genetic model:
o   In essence, white Americans are healthier than black Americans because black Americans are genetically more prone to low birth weight and high blood pressure.
·         Health-behavior model:
o   This model is based on the idea that white American and black American health behaviors, like smoking, exercise and eating, are different. The health disparity is caused by the difference in behaviors between white Americans and black Americans.
·         Socioeconomic status model:
o   The disparity in health between black Americans and white Americans is caused by the disparity in socioeconomic status (i.e. income level, social class, education, etc.)
·         Psychosocial stress model:
o   Summed up, stress caused from the racism that black Americans endure causes their health to diminish to a lower average level to white Americans.
·         Structural-constructivist model:
o   People of the same culture come to value similar aspirations, such as becoming wealthy or enjoying a peaceful existence. In our case, we also have a socially constructed concept of race. Sometimes, the social construction of race interferes with some people’s aspirations and this causes the health disparity. I would imagine the phenomenon would be much more subtle, but an example would be a black man wanting to obtain the prestigious status of USA president, but believing that he can never achieve his goal because there have only ever been white presidents (the year that the example takes place in is 1998)

Now, the reading makes mention of why most of these models are flawed, but, for what it’s worth, which one gives the most likely explanation for the health disparity between black Americans and white Americans?

Previous to the article, I believed that socioeconomic status was the main contributor to the disparity. I had thought that the lower levels of socioeconomic status contributed to lower health because money was a bigger issue and when one’s strapped for cash, the cheaper alternatives usually outweigh the healthier choices.

Friday, February 21, 2014


This article that I found relates to what we have been discussing this week in class, because this article talks about how depression is not a malfunction but it is an adaptation. Depression is later defined as an adaptation, a real cost and state of mind which brings real costs, but also brings real benefits. This article then goes in dept into why depression is thought of as an adaptation. It talks about a research that was conducted on a molecule in the brain called 5HT1A receptor, and this receptor binds to another brain molecule called serotonin. Serotonin is what the antidepressant medications usually targets In the study they found that rodents who did not have the receptor had very little depression symptoms. The rodents receptor and the human receptor are 99% identical, so they concluded that the 5HT1A receptor is very important for natural selection to preserve it, and that the ability to have depression would seem to be important then.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Most people do not look at depression as having any advantages, they see it as an inhibitor. I see depression as both physiological as well as an adaptation. In both the article from Nesse and the one above, depression is said to have benefits. When people are depressed they tend to think about the things that are causing them problems. Depression makes it hard for them to think about anything else; therefore they are more likely to overcome these problems with the right frame of mind. This kind of analysis needs little distraction. Neurons need to fire rapidly to avoid distractions. Studies done on rats show that the 5HT1A receptor helps fuel neurons to fire, and also to keep them from breaking down. Rodents with this receptor have fewer depressive symptoms when introduced to stress. This suggests that the 5HT1A receptor is somehow linked to depression. This helps support the question of whether or not depression is an adaptation. In some cases depression could just be an adaptation to help us analyze and overcome our problems effectively. Some people are more genetically prone to depression though. Medical conditions such as a thyroid disorder, or chemicals in medications and alcohol, play a great role as well. 

Searcher - Drug Abuse in College

After reading the posts by the First Readers this week, I was intrigued by Mackenzee's post about drug abuse in college. This is a very common thing I myself have heard about here at the University. After searching through different articles I found a common theme: students take the drugs to keep up with the competitive environment that is prevalent in college campuses.

This article by the New York Times shares the stories of college students who have taken the drugs and even serve as drug dealers in their community. Those that take the drugs do so in order to keep up with the overwhelming workload they are presented with. Eventually, the drugs became a need for the students and they claimed they would not be able to survive without them.

Although the drugs seems like a good idea with no negative consequences, there are many concerns that professionals have brought up. One of the main issues that were brought were the health consequences that could come up, some of these being increased heart rate, agitation and paranoia. Students that do not participate in the drugs abuse are concerned about the fairness that this implies and think that those who take the drugs are cheating and have an unfair advantage.

Is Depression an Adaptation? Research Can Help Us Find the Answer

Researcher Position 2/20/14

While symptoms of depression have always been around (Andrews and Thomas), they have not always been as prevalent as they are today, causing scientists to wonder if depression is becoming an adaptation.    In order to formulate my own opinion about why depression is considered an adaptation today, I examined the way depression manifests itself in people of other countries.  Depression is most frequently diagnosed in the U.S. and France, making it most prevalent in those countries (Pappas).  Although many factors may go into determining that statistic, an article from mentioned an interesting observation.  In many countries where quality of life is poorer than that of America, people tend to focus more on getting through their days than they focus on, say, having a generally good day as we would in the U.S.  Thus, when inhabitants of third world nations are alive when they hit the sack, the day has been successful.  In the U.S. a vast number of various stressors could negatively impact the average day of a citizen, leading to a constant low mood even though we may continually survive (Van Dusen).  In this case, depression would be less of an adaptation, and more of response, not an adaptation that is beneficial to our fitness.  While so many questions remain unanswered still concerning diagnosing depression, as we say in The Book of Woes chapters, considering how countries few mentally stimulating events may help us in accurately classifying depression as an adaptation or not.  What do you think? Comment below!

Andrews, Paul W., Thomson Jr, J Anderson.  Depression’s Evolutionary Roots.  Scientific               American.  Feb.  2010.

Pappas, Stephanie.  US and France More Depressed Than Poor Countries.  Livescience.  June.         2011. 

Van Dusen, Allison.  How Depressed Is Your Country?  Forbes.  Feb.  2007.                      cx_avd_0216depressed.html.  


            After doing the readings and discussing the topic of depression and how people get it I found a really good article that discusses all the main points we touched on in class. In my opinion after seeing family and friends that experienced some sort of depression I feel it is a mixture of multiple issues. From personal experience I have seen individuals that have always been happy but when they came to college just immediately became a depressed individual. From looking at their transition from home with family to away at college, I noticed how they were never with their family, never with their hometown friends, and never doing anything but school, eat, and sleep. So just that one example demonstrates how depression was not a persistent problem or something they were born with, meaning depression happened because of a traumatic event. Another example that is the complete opposite of my friend becoming depressed in college is a family member that always has her ups and downs in life. As long as I have been able to notice, I started seeing how a specific family member was always being sad for no reason, even if everyone was laughing and having a good time, nothing would make her happy. With that example, I feel that it was something she was born with, because after talking with other family members they say there was nothing ever traumatic that made her that way. Therefore, when reading this article it points out how there is no true specific reason why an individual can become depressed, that there are multiple aspects to the depression complication. In the article it points out that it could be genes, brain chemistry, seasonal, life events, family history, or traumatic life changes.