Black Americans have historically had a strained relationship with the U.S. healthcare system. Insufficient access to quality care and affordable medication, negative health outcomes, and inadequate cultural competency have defined healthcare delivery for People of Color for many years. How Black Americans view their own health, however, differs. To gain a deeper understanding of Black Americans' views on health and well-being, ThinkNow and Quantasy + Associates conducted a multi-wave study on the current state of Black Americans. This wave's findings suggest Black health is more encouraging than the prevailing narrative implies.
While the disparities mentioned above are real, and the rate of uninsured Black adults is slightly higher than the general population, they are more likely to say they have the support they need to manage their health than non-Blacks (73% vs. 70%). In fact, Black Americans rate their current state of health on par with non-Black Americans. Seventy-nine percent believe their state of health is good compared to 76% of non-Blacks. Black Americans are also more likely to claim that being healthy is something they're intentional about, with 72% stating that being healthy is something they work hard at compared to 66% of non-blacks. Being healthy was also more likely to be mentioned as a life goal in this community, and that desire increases with education and income.
Black communities have strong cultural traditions of healing and wellness. The use of alternative and complementary medicine is popular regardless of income or health coverage status. When given a choice, 57% of Blacks prefer to use natural remedies over prescription medication compared to 49% of non-Blacks. This does not mean, however, that they aren't aware of prescription drug options since 63% state they pay attention to advertising about health and medications compared to 52% of non-Blacks.
Black men have some of the worst health indicators among racial and ethnic groups in America. They don't, however, view their own health negatively. Their positive attitude may be counter-productive since they're less likely to visit doctors than Black women. Fifty-three percent of Black men state that they only see doctors when they're sick vs. 43% of Black women. They are also more likely to state that good health runs in their family (57%) than Black women (38%). This optimism may influence their decisions on whether to seek the preventive or early care needed to improve health outcomes.
Black Americans are prioritizing their mental and emotional well-being. They are more likely than non-Blacks to "completely agree" that mental health is a significant part of overall health (58% vs. 50%), and Black women are especially attuned to the importance of mental health with 63% in complete agreement that it's significant. There also appears to be less stigma in seeking medical help for mental health issues with 48% of Black respondents stating they're comfortable doing so vs. 42% of Whites, 36% of Hispanics and 27% of Asians. Additionally, Blacks are more likely to state they know what they need to do to stay mentally healthy than non-Blacks.
Black Americans are on par with other segments in understanding the components of a healthy diet. Seventy-seven percent choose fruits and vegetables when looking for healthy food, which is the same percentage as non-Blacks. They are slightly less likely to go for 'low sugar or sugar-free' products, but they shift to this more with age. Younger generations were more inclined to look for fortified, keto or high protein, low carb, and plant-based/vegan products. Rates of exercise were also similar to non-Blacks though they are slightly less likely to do cardio exercise and slightly more likely to engage in team or competitive sports.
Despite prevailing systemic obstacles, the Black community is taking ownership of its health outcomes and seeking to stay healthy. Black Americans increasingly rely on natural and plant-based approaches to wellness, prioritizing mindfulness and valuing mental and spiritual well-being. Marketing to this segment should be grounded in these truths and focused on preserving health, which aligns with Black Americans' optimism, as much as preventing and treating illness. By listening to and embracing Black voices, we take a positive step toward achieving health equity in the U.S. that serves the entire community's needs.