October is ADHD Awareness Month. This post explores awareness of ADHD in the African-American population.
Over the past decade, awareness about and diagnosis of ADHD in minority populations in the United States has increased. In all likelihood, the higher numbers diagnosed represent not an increase in the numbers of individuals with the disorder, but, instead, more wide-spread attention to signs, symptoms and diagnosis. As a result, ADHD has been increasingly recognized among African-Americans.
This blog post briefly examines:
- Prevalence of ADHD among African-Americans
- How Race Affects ADHD
- Research on Differences in Treatment among Racial Groups
- Cultural Beliefs also Impact Treatment
- A Call to Action
- Resources for African-American Families
II. How Race Affects ADHD
III. Research on Differences in Treatment among Racial Groups
This study did not address the very important question of differential treatment of ADHD among children in various racial/ethnic groups. Yet, research suggests a number of factors impact treatment for racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S.
One study found that:
“The barriers preventing minorities from seeking and using [medication and counseling for ADHD] include a lack of culturally competent health-care providers, financial hurdles and little dissemination of information about treatments that work.”
According to Melvin Otis, MD, writing for the American Professional Society of AD/HD and Related Disorders (see Pediatric Track at the ASPARD link):
“Seeking and receiving treatment for a mental health disorder like ADHD can be a complex process that is influenced by a combination of access barriers and individual, cultural, and societal factors. For ethnic minorities, these factors include attitudes and perceptions about mental health care, language barriers, parental knowledge about ADHD, general access to treatment, and cost of treatment. “
IV. Cultural Beliefs also Impact Treatment
Two interesting articles published in 2005 examine the impact of cultural beliefs on seeking treatment for ADHD among African-Americans. Although these articles are now each several years old, they highlight beliefs about ADHD and help-seeking that are important in any discussion of eliminating racial disparities in treatment.
A study published in The Journal of the National Medical Association suggests that many African American parents may be unfamiliar with ADHD:
“Although … 69 percent of African American parents have heard of ADHD, only 36 percent … [had] information about ADHD. African Americans may [also] have false beliefs about the cause of ADHD … [for example,] merely 10 percent of African American parents [knew] that ADHD is not caused by “too much sugar.”
Additionally, in an article in the National Resource Center on AD/HD‘s Attention magazine, Gary and Bussing point out that help-seeking behaviors among African-American parents may be impacted by a history of institutional racism:
“African American parents …. want the best teachers and health professionals for their children, yet, they also remember that numerous generations of African American parents have had bad experiences and reasons to distrust these systems.”
IV. A Call to Action
One purpose of ADHD Awareness Month is to disseminate information about ADHD widely, hopefully reaching individuals of “Many Faces,” including many races and ethnicities, with accurate and culturally-relevant information.
ADHD Awareness Month can also sensitize professionals working with individuals having ADHD to
reduce barriers by recognizing, as Otis suggests, “the cultural nuances of these groups; [the need to] fully integrate cultural sensitivity into assessing and treating patients with ADHD; and [a]cknowledging and discussing cultural differences.”
Further, ADHD Awareness Month can highlight the issue of “institutional racism.” Eliminating racial disparities in healthcare will require the efforts of policymakers, educators, physicians and other medical personnel who will all need to make a conscious attempt to discuss the impact of racism on health care.
- CHADD (Children and Adults with AD/HD has several brief videos about African-Americans and AD/HD:
- In one, Congressional Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee and Karran Harper Royal talk about the difference between getting treated and falling through the cracks.
- In another, Dr. David Satcher, former Surgeon General of the United States, discusses AD/HD in general and the fact that racial and ethnic minorities, in particular African-Americans, are less likely than white children to receive quality mental health care.
- BlackDoctor.org includes a comprehensive article on AD/HD.
- The National Association for the Education of African American Children who Learn Differently has a website and publication with information for families.
Coaching is one intervention that can be helpful in the treatment of ADHD. To learn more, contact me for a free consultation: www.lizahmann.com