Epidemiology among Italian Americans
Epidemiology data that compared the deaths status of Italians and Americans found that leading causes of death for adults at both times were similar in Italy and the United States. For the past thirty years, the leading cause of death for the adult population for Italians in has been degenerative diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease and cancer. Studies of Italian-born immigrants in New York and Pennsylvania had relatively low death rates when compared to other groups (Mugnaioli et al., 2006). Italian males had the lowest death rate from all causes of any foreign-born group even lower than the native population. The rates for Italian females were slightly higher than for the native born.
Studies determined that mortality from heart diseases and nephritis among Italian males and from cancer for both sexes. Moreover, the mortality from tuberculosis among Italians was also lower than for native-born. On the other hand, there was a higher mortality from pneumonia for both sexes and from diabetes for females, which contrasted to lower figures for southern Italy (De Sanjose et al., 2008). Italian immigrants, especially those from southern Italy arrived in the United States with a lower risk for heart disease and certain cancers than the general population. However, the incidence of sickness and mortality rates change with succeeding generations when compared to those of general population in the host country. This is related to the learning of health behaviors and exposure to new environmental risks.
Data on cancer rates and immigrants focus on the risk of disease upon arrival in the host country and the subsequent changes in that risk over time. Reports on cancer risk in Italy show that rates are lower for most cancers when compared to the United States rates, and immigrants arriving in the United States from Italy are reported to have the lower cancer risk of all. Looking at data on Italians in the United States, it was established that Italians arrived in the United Sates with a low mortality rate of colon, breast, and lungs, prostate and rectal cancer (Miller, 2011). Stomach esophageal cancer rates were the only two that were higher for Italians. Most researchers note that the risk of cancer for Italians changes with the duration of stay in the host country.
Socio-Behavioral Influences among Italian Americans
The concept of equating disease with outsiders is a historical perennial. Throughout history, communities have often regulated who could enter their society by the fear that strangers often brought disease in the form of deadly epidemics. Traditionally the best defense against foreign sickness was quarantine, a procedure inaugurated in the middle ages by veterans. Research indicates that variations in the incidence of heart disease existed between different ethnic groups and also among ethnically similar groups in different locations (Haggar & Boushey, 2009).
The risk of cancer varies among ethnic and racial groups. The reason for ethnic differences is not clear but may have to do with inherited lung cancer susceptibility genes that vary among groups of individuals. Early detections ensure that cancer can be treated in an early stage almost literally "being nipped in the bud.” The screening takes two forms: screening by professional and medical equipment such as mammograms and screening that can be performed at home such as testicular or breast self-examination. The American Cancer Society has set clear recommendations for when and how often a person should be screened, for cancer (Heidemann et al., 2008). It is additionally important to teach concepts that relate to these diseases among Italian Americans to ensure everyone is well aware of the disease experienced.
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