By Brittany Wallace, Contributing Writer
A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that Blacks who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities are less likely to develop health problems later in life, than Blacks who attend predominantly white institutions.
The study, led by Ohio State University sociology professor Cynthia Colen, found that Blacks that attend HBCUs are 35% less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which is defined as the presence of three to five factors that increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. These same health risks are known to be prominent in the Black community, and can lead to lifelong complications.
Colen stated on the Ohio State University website that “We’ve known for a very long time that the more years of completed schooling someone has, the better their health is likely to be across the life course, but there’s been very little research looking at the different contexts in which education occurs and their impact on subsequent health outcomes.”
She went on to say “This study really points to a strength of HBCUs that people don’t normally think about: Not only can they be health-protective, but they can be health-protective for years to come, not just while people are in school.”
Parenting and Education Expert, Kimberly A. Morrow states that “This study affirms what those of us who have been privileged to attend or graduate from an HBCU already know. Black Colleges are a safe haven for Black students. HBCU grads are more likely equipped and prepared to deal with stress factors like racial discrimination than their peers who attended a PWI. They are also likely to gain knowledge about specific health-related issues that are prevalent to our communities.” Morrow, a graduate of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, GA, expressed that HBCU students do not have to bear the stress that comes with having to compete with non-Black students at a PWI. She stated that “at an HBCU, students feel loved and welcomed. They don’t necessarily have to belong to a club or fraternity to feel a sense of connection, because there is already a sense of family that comes with simply attending.”
While the available data in the study cannot explain why Blacks that attend HBCUs are less likely to develop health problems, there are many possible contributing factors that could lead to the outcome. Students at HBCUs have the benefit of regular interaction with Black professors, staff and mentors, which leads to significant reduction of racial discrimination, which has been shown to have a severe impact on mental and physical health, as opposed to Black students that attend PWIs. Additionally, Black students at HBCUs are not plagued with carrying the burden of having to perform better academically than their non-black counterparts for equal recognition, as they would likely have to at a PWI.
In addition to the study, HBCUs have gained popularity this year for several reasons; most notably as Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris, is a proud graduate of HBCU, Howard University, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Additionally, many high school athletes have begun to show interest in taking their talents to HBCUs instead of PWIs, after highly sought after California high school basketball star, Makur Maker, made headlines when he chose to attend Howard University instead of UCLA.