Perceived versus actual risk for hypertension and diabetes in the African American community

Health Promot Pract. 2006 Jan;7(1):34-46. doi: 10.1177/1524839905283891.


Hypertension and diabetes mellitus are leading health concerns in the United States. Despite a disproportionate burden of both conditions among African Americans, it is estimated that 44% of diabetes cases and one quarter of hypertension cases within this population are undiagnosed. Lack of awareness of the risk of these conditions may hinder preventive efforts and the adoption of positive lifestyle changes. Based on the findings from a pilot study to develop and standardize uniform screening forms for hypertension and diabetes, this article reports on the perceived risk versus actual risk of developing these conditions among primarily African American participants using a community-based screening tool. Each form assessed both perceived and actual risk of diabetes and hypertension, respectively. A total of 265 hypertension and 225 diabetes screening forms were randomly selected from eight sites across the country. The risk perception of the overall study sample was similar to its actual risk for developing either condition. However, a significant proportion of individuals who scored at high risk for diabetes or hypertension were unaware of their risk for these conditions. These results suggest the need for developing culturally relevant interventions, public health education, and policies that address the risk misperceptions among this group.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Community Health Services / standards
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Mass Screening / standards
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • United States / epidemiology