Johanna Brenner

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 97 pages)


African American women -- Health and hygiene, Content analysis (Communication), Journal of the American Medical Association, American Journal of Public Health, New England Journal of Medicine




According to the National Vital Statistics Report (1998), Black women age 45-64 are ten times more likely than white women of the same age to die from diseases of the heart. They are five times more likely to die from diabetes. The goal of this study was to examine how articles published in leading medical journals between 1989 and 1998 accounted for such differences in health outcomes among Black and white women.

The explanatory content of the articles was analyzed and coded according to four types of attributions: genetic/biological, cultural/behavioral, structural/socioeconomic and alternative. Each type of explanation derives from different assumptions and operates with different models for understanding why health outcomes vary among groups. Alternative explanations are those that focus on the direct effect of race/gender oppression on Black women's health. Genetic/biological attributions occurred less frequently than structural/socioeconomic and cultural behavioral but were more likely to occur than alternative attributions, which were the least often employed. While alternative attributions are considered in some of the articles about Black women's health and mortality, they are overall rarely employed. The finding that explanations that most directly explore the impact of racism and sexism on Black women's health occur least often has important implications. Articles published in these three journals inform medical practitioners and affect the ability of such practitioners to adequately address the needs of Black women in their care.


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