Medication Concerns for African American Women:
Where's the Research?

Martha E. Banks, Ph.D.

ABackans Diversified Computer Processing, Inc.
Research and Development Division
566 White Pond Drive
Suite C #178
Akron, OH 44320-1116


Women are less likely than men to receive appropriate medical workups; they are likely to be undermedicated for physical conditions and overmedicated for psychiatric problems. African American women often do not have access to preventative care and are seriously ill before receiving medical treatment. However, even when African American women do receive treatment, it is not clear that there is a sound scientific basis for the treatment, because African American women have systematically been excluded from medical research.

In the United States, medical research focuses on specific disease entities in women, primarily related to reproduction (e.g., uterine and breast cancer, infertility), whereas international research involves women in investigations on all physical systems. For example, cardiovascular disease is the third most frequent killer of women, but in the United States, women have systematically been excluded from research in that area. Hypertension is a serious medical problem for African American women. AIDS, now recognized as the leading killer among both men and women between the ages of 25 and 40, is still most heavily been researched in men. African American women are considered the highest risk group for HIV infection and tend to die sooner after diagnosis than other groups of people.

Interactions among prescribed medications, over the counter medications, other drugs, and foods are ignored. This is particularly problematic for African American women whose physiological response to medications is mediated not only by physiological status, but also by socially induced stresses, such as racism, sexism, and economic pressures.

This presentation includes recent trends in morbidity and mortality in African American women, sociocultural factors which impact on African American women's health, and the impact of changing focus of medical research. Specific psychological issues are frustration with problematic medical care, iatrogenic health problems, and facilitation of appropriate medical research for African American women.

This paper was presented at the 1996 convention of the American Psychological Association in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Copyright 1996-2000 ABackans Diversified Computer Processing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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