According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African American men have the highest incidence rate of both prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. African American men also tend to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a younger age than any other population.
Understanding the relationship between the incidence rate of disease and health inequities within a population is difficult without looking past pure biology and taking into consideration a wide range of social factors.
David Miller, an associate professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, is committed to understanding the complexities found in health disparities among minority populations, specifically in relation to the health status of African American males.
Miller, who is also the president of the City of South Euclid Council, is interested in studying the health behaviors and practices and health literacy of minority men, as well as how these factors influence participation in the informed decision-making process for cancer screenings.
A knowledge of family health history and treatment options, according to Miller, is essential for individuals to fulfill their health needs. Unfortunately this type of knowledge is what many young minority men lack.
“The more knowledge individuals have, the more they can communicate and have a discussion … so that the person can at least understand where he is and understand what his options are, short term and long term,” said Miller.
According to Miller, health literacy is also necessary for patients to maintain an equal footing with their health care providers and to understand their various screening and treatment options when faced with a diagnosis.
Miller says his primary objective is to inform the public, through a health care perspective, of what is known and what is not known about prostate and colorectal cancer. Knowledge like this will allow men, non-minorities included, to have productive conversations with their health care providers in the clinical setting.
This type of knowledge, Miller said, can also be provided for community health workers for use in workshops or education initiatives so that participants can then feel “comfortable and confident” when speaking with their health care providers.
For close to 10 years, Miller has been interested in understanding the intricacies of health and health care in relation to minority populations through a combination of research methods.
“I like to collect original data in the sense that I will seek out my respondents whether they’re in a physician’s office [or] community setting,” said Miller. “I believe that the best sort of data is the original source.”
Miller feels that his current position at Case Western Reserve University gives him the opportunity to use it as a platform to do research and make that research available for public consumption with the goal of reducing health disparities by helping the minority community, as well as men in general.
“Being a black male, the health status of black males is something that, in this country, is abysmal,” Miller said. “There’s no two ways about it.”
Miller believes that while finding the cure for cancer is important and necessary, it is also important to consider other factors of disease and health disparities.
“I believe that the psychosocial issues of cancer can’t get left behind,” said Miller.