New Survey of African-Americans Reveals Dramatic Data on Experiences and Awareness of Paralysis

SHORT HILLS, N.J. — A recent survey of African-Americans revealed that more than half know, or have known, someone who is paralyzed, yet two-thirds are not aware of any resources in their community to help people living with paralysis.

"Since the PRC opened its doors in 2002, we have learned there is a great lack of paralysis-related information in minority communities," stated Joe Canose, vice president, Quality of Life, for the Christopher Reeve Foundation, who also oversees the organizational and outreach efforts at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center (PRC). "Helping minority communities obtain this information is critical; therefore, we conducted our first survey on paralysis in the African-American community to help us better administer our outreach efforts."

The survey revealed that more than 52 percent of African-Americans know or have known someone who is paralyzed, but 67 percent are not aware of resources for those living with paralysis within their community. Further, a significant proportion of African-Americans (41 percent) perceive only a moderate level of support from their community for those living with paralysis.

"After I was paralyzed, I became acutely aware of the information gap that people living with paralysis deal with every day," said actor and former rapper Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, who serves as a spokesman for the PRC's Minority Communities Outreach Campaign. "When it comes to minority communities, that information gap gets larger, as this survey shows. It emphasizes the need to spread awareness about the PRC's resources among the African-American community, as well as to find ways for the community to get involved."

The survey also revealed that almost 80 percent of African-Americans turn to medical professionals for information. Sandra L. Gadson, M.D., president of the National Medical Association, the country's largest African-American physician member organization, said, "This survey shows the importance of medical professionals in providing support and information to the African-American community."

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • For support with a health problem, African-Americans overwhelmingly (86 percent) turn to close family members. African-Americans interviewed were most likely to turn to their spouse (27 percent), a parent (24 percent) or a sibling (22 percent) for support.
  • Outside of family and friends, medical professionals are the key source of information (79 percent) if a person has a health problem. Only 11 percent of those surveyed turn to the Internet as a resource.
  • More than half of African-Americans (53 percent) know or have known someone who is paralyzed, and almost all those interviewed were aware of the source of the paralysis. The most frequent source of the paralysis was the result of an injury (35 percent), followed by an illness or health problem (33 percent). An equal number said the source of the paralysis was a birth condition (14 percent) or an act of violence (14 percent).
  • African-Americans have a high comfort level with people who are living with paralysis (50 percent are extremely or very comfortable, and 26 percent are somewhat comfortable), but perceive only a moderate level of support from their community for people living with paralysis (extremely supportive: 8 percent, and very supportive: 25 percent).
  • Despite their high levels of awareness of, and comfort with, people living with paralysis, two-thirds of African-Americans surveyed (67 percent) are not aware of any resources in their community that specifically help people living with paralysis.

The national survey, commissioned by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center, was conducted by International Communications Research to understand attitudes among the African-American community toward people living with paralysis, and awareness of resources available to those with or affected by paralysis. The survey was based on telephone interviews with 1,000 adult African-Americans (452 males, 548 females) living in the continental United States. The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 3.10 percent.

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This article originally appeared in the March 2006 issue of HME Business.

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