10/03/2011 07:39 EDT | Updated 11/30/2011 05:12 EST

Blacks In Canada As Healthy As Whites, Study Says


Recent studies have found black people in Canada are healthier than black people in America. In fact, black people may even be healthier than white people.

Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggest black people born in Canada have less instances of high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes than white people, but the same isn't true for our neighbours to the south. In the U.S., health problems among African Americans are well documented. For instance, an African American woman is 60 per cent more likely to be obese than a non-hispanic white women. What's more, African American people in the States consistently have a lower life expectancy than Americans with European origins -- by about seven or eight years! They also have higher instances of high blood pressure and diabetes, among other things.

Here's the important question: why? While factors like lifestyle and genetic heritage undoubtedly play a big role, lead researcher Thomas A. LaVeist of The Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions in Baltimore believes it's more than that -- he suggests the disparities in health stem from black people being treated like "second-class citizens." What's more, a 1999 study done by the Institute of Medicine discovered visible minorities in the States consistently received poorer health care than white people, regardless of factors like status and income. For instance, they were less likely to receive lifesaving medications and surgeries and more likely to lose a limb due to diabetes.

Of course, having access to free health care is a big plus for Canada. "I think that is part of the puzzle, the fact that in Canada you have universal healthcare," LaVeist added. In the States, minorities are less likely to be covered for health-care expenses.

You should also take these findings with a grain of salt -- LaVeist is quick to point out this research has limitations. Sample size is one factor -- the study involved only 729 black Canadians comparable to 280,000 whites, making it difficult to draw comparisons between the two groups. What's more, some of the findings contradict earlier studies.

Still, whether you're black or white, Canadian or American, health is a personal responsibility -- so always try to take care of yourself.