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Black male immigrants practice positive gastrointestinal health care habits, according to U. research

Researchers from the School of Public Health concluded that African-American/Black male immigrants work toward resolving gastrointestinal (GI) health issues, despite an initial lack of awareness. – Photo by

A recent study led by Rutgers researchers observed how African-American/Black male immigrants manage their digestive health and found that this particular population exhibited positive habits in managing their gastrointestinal (GI) health.

In an interview with The Daily Targum, Daina Potter, a data analyst at the School of Public Health and one of the co-authors of the study, said she has been interested in Black male health because Black men are underrepresented in academic works, despite displaying higher instances of health issues and lower life expectancies. She said a family friend's complex GI issues prompted her to ask questions.

"So, I really wanted to understand, 'Okay, what are the GI conditions, right? What does that look like among Black men?'" she said. "And so, I couldn't find much, which was really interesting, considering GI issues are kind of plaguing our population currently."

The study details how digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome are a challenge for adult Americans, and the rate of this condition among African-American/Black male immigrants is on the rise.

According to the study, the purpose of this research was to explore health care interactions of African-American/Black male immigrants and identify causes of and solutions for this population's GI issues. The study analyzed the experiences of 15 African-American/Black male immigrants in the U.S. through two remote sessions.

Potter said during the study's first focus group meeting, she focused on the participants' comfort in disclosing health information. She noted that most of the participants did not turn on their cameras, which may have contributed to a lack of engagement.

During the second focus group session, Potter said that she required all participants to turn on their cameras, and one participant removed himself from the study as a result. He then reached back out to Potter and said he wanted to participate but would only be comfortable doing so with the guarantee that his video would be confidential, to which Potter agreed.

Upon reflecting on the two focus groups, she reported that the second focus group was a positive experience.

"I think one notable moment is … we were asking about how they feel about their health, and one participant said, 'Health is power, (and) health is wealth.' And that really stuck with me because it is, right? When we're not healthy, we're not feeling right. That affects our life quality," she said. "And so, it really was impactful for me because it made me think about my own health and some of the things that I may not be doing correctly."

The study concluded that African-American/Black male immigrant participants had insufficient awareness of gastrointestinal health and denied the initial diagnosis once it was presented to them. Findings also indicated that, upon acceptance of their conditions, the participants looked to lifestyle changes, positive health care interactions and a health-valuing mindset.

Potter said she thinks that her research is an effective jumping-off point for public health researchers to shift their research approaches. She said she hopes to convey the value of studying the advantages and positive traits of each research participant rather than their weaknesses and faults.

She said that she also hopes to apply her research in a correctional setting and observe the impacts of GI conditions among incarcerated Black men. She said their vulnerable position also requires advocacy and awareness in health care research.

Potter said to the Targum that research, as well as public and health care efforts, can motivate open conversations and greater awareness of GI issues.

"I'm hoping that (the study) inspires others, and so others can really get involved in this research, so that we have more voices advocating for this," she said.

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