Ravenell (2006) reports that a review of health and health perceptions in young African American men (15-45 years old) finds that African American males are disproportionately affected by accidental injury, human immunodeficiency virus and cardiovascular disease. These conditions are preventable and are amenable to primary care intervention yet young African American men underutilize primary care health services. Because healthcare utilization is strongly dependent on health beliefs, the purpose of this qualitative study was to identify and explore young African American men's perceptions of health and health influences. Ravenell and his colleagues conducted focus group interviews with select subgroups of young African American men including adolescents, trauma survivors, and HIV-positive men. (N=30). Definitions of health and beliefs about influences on health were elicited. Participants' definitions of health went beyond the traditional "absence of disease" definition and included physical, mental, emotional, economic, and spiritual well-being. Stress was cited as a dominant negative influence on health, attributed to lack of income, racism, "unhealthy" neighborhoods, and conflict in relationships. Positive influences included a supportive social network and feeling valued by loved ones. This study provides insight into young African American men's general health perceptions, and may have implications for future efforts to improve healthcare utilization and health in this population. Recommendations for future directions to improve African American men's health are discussed.
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