Healthier Black Elders Center (HBEC)

The Healthier Black Elders Center (HBEC)

What is HBEC?

HBEC is a diverse group of educators, community members, national advisors, and researchers who work to improve the health of older adults living in metro Detroit area. It is located at the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University.

The Primary Goal

The Center's staff is working to reduce differences in the health status of elderly minorities by focusing research on health promotion, disease and disability prevention activities, thereby allowing older African Americans and their families to have better health now and in the future.

This will be accomplished through the collection of research data used to understand and resolve problems associated with the health of African Americans. Partnerships have been created with community-based organizations and individuals. These partnerships involve:

  • Removing barriers to African Americans' participation in research.

  • Developing new approaches for educators and researchers working with minority populations.

  • Using funds to create new ways to improve the health of older Detroiters and their families.

  • An HBEC Participant Resource Pool that has been created as a major vehicle for partnering with older adults.

Click here for more information on how to become a participant

Why Is It Important?

Since the turn of the century the life expectancy for all races has increased, except for African Americans. The life expectancy of African American men born during or after 1997 is 66 years compared to 74 years for Caucasian men, and African American women is 74 years compared to 80 years for Caucasian women.

Differences in the health status of White and Black Americans is very significant, and is has continued to grow since 1985. Of the 31.1 million elderly accounted for by the U.S. Census in 1990, about 8% (2.4 million) are African American. It is estimated that between 1990 and 2020 the number of African American elderly will increase by 102%. African Americans continue to have lower life expectancy than any other race. African Americans life expectancy is 70.2 years compared to an average of 76.5 years for all population groups.

  • For African American men the average life expectancy is 66.1 years compared to the national average of 73.6 years for all men

  • Among African American males' lung cancer is more than 54% higher than that of Caucasian men.

  • The number of new cases of invasive cancer diagnosis per year is nearly 21% higher for African American men compared with Caucasian men and is about the same for African American women and Caucasian women. (i.e., 406.3 for African American women and 431.8 for Caucasian women).

  • Compared with Caucasian men and women, yearly cancer deaths are 30 and 16% higher for African American men and women respectively.

  • Although more Caucasian women are diagnosed with cancer each year, more African American women die from cancer each year.

  • African Americans have a 50% higher risk of death from heart disease and 100% greater risk from stroke than Caucasian people, and 320% greater rate of hypertension-related end-stage renal disease than the general population.

The Results

Participants in the Center's programs will have access to interventions, approaches, information, educators and researchers to enhance the health and well being of African Americans, their families, and their communities. Educational sessions have been provided to thousands of older adults throughout Detroit. 

Publications and Events

For more information contact: Vanessa Rorai @ 313-664-2604 or

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For more information contact: Minti Henderson at 734-763-2489 or

MCUAAAR is a collaboration between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University