Liberians and Kenyans in the United States are more likely to report having diabetes or hypertension than other African immigrants, a study has found.
The study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota and published in the BMC Public Health journal collected data from 996 immigrants from 18 African countries, (37.9 per cent Somalis; 26.8 per cent Ethiopians; 14 percent Liberians; 8.5 percent Sudanese; 5.1 percent Kenyans and 7.8 per cent other groups).
Although African immigrants represent a large and growing segment of the U.S. population, there are little or no data available on the prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors among this diverse population. This study compared the prevalence of self-reported CVD risk factors and health behaviors and examined the associations between immigration related characteristics and CVD risk factors and health behaviors across six African immigrants groups.
According to the study, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of deaths in the US. The survey found that Kenyans and Liberians have the highest risks of reporting these diseases as they increasingly integrate into American society.
Liberians were more likely to be overweight or obese compared to Somalis, and were nearly four times more likely to report being told that they were either diabetic or hypertensive.
Liberians had 48% higher odds of reporting 5 days or more of physical activity. Liberians were more likely to make a conscious effort to exercise, while Sudanese were less likely to report making a conscious effort to exercise. Liberians had higher odds of making a conscious effort to eat a healthy diet, while individuals from Sudan were less likely to report making a conscious effort to eat a healthy diet. Those immigrants who have been in the US for a period of over five years were at a higher risk of getting heart diseases. On all measures of health behaviors, Liberians were more likely to engage in more health protective behaviors than other individuals.
Importance of this study
African immigrants are a diverse group. However, most national surveys or instruments available where race is recorded do not capture these distinctions. Currently it is the norm for African immigrants to report their race as ‘Black’. Grouping African immigrants together as blacks, foreign-born blacks, or African Americans may miss important behavioral and lifestyle variations within this population. This study could help design culturally tailored and specific interventions for the unique needs of these diverse immigrant populations.