The average life expectancy between 1950 and 2000 increased by an average of 8 years for males and females of all races. But, the most significant increase in life expectancy was among AA females whose average life expectancy increased by 12.3 years. This improvement has raised the average life expectancy to 75 years for AA women, but it remains below the 79.5 years average life expectancy for all race females.
The Health Resources and Services Administration Office of Women’s Health also looks at the years of potential life lost as a measure of population health. This measure calculates the years of life lost by people who died before their full life expectancy. In 1998, AA women had more than 10,000 years of potential life lost due to all causes. That number is double that of white women and more than three times the number for Asian women.
What are the leading causes of death for AA women? Heart disease, cancer, and stroke rank as the top three with diabetes listed as fourth. Obesity and hypertension, although not listed as major causes of death in AA women, contribute to the disease process for both heart disease and stroke. According to the year 2000 census report, 35.8% of AA women self-reported that they were obese. Obesity can lead to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It has also been implicated in some forms of cancer. Obesity is a treatable condition that requires full participation by the patient along with medical advice and support.
Not all threats to the health and well-being of the AA women are as treatable as obesity. AIDS has a high incidence and prevalence in AA women. According to the U.S. Health Status Morbidity Report, the age and prevalence are as listed:
|Age in years||AIDS cases|
|65 and older||967|
These figures are staggering and will continue to grow if we allow it; therefore, as AA women we must move forward as advocates for an improved health care system that will meet the needs of a diverse population of consumers.