Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

African American Women and the Obesity Epidemic: A Systematic Review

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

African American Women and the Obesity Epidemic: A Systematic Review

Article excerpt

The incidence of obesity in the U.S. has sparked a national conversation about how best to address this health crisis. In 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spent $857 million on obesity research (NIH.gov, accessed April 22, 2015). Despite investment in obesity research, rates remain high and among African Americans the prevalence of obesity is disproportionate (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html, accessed May 4, 2015). For African American women the obesity rate is staggering, and as such should be given substantial consideration. However, the research literature does not provide adequate attention to this issue with several literature reviews indicating a low number of studies conducted to examine African American women and obesity (Tussing-Humphreys, Fitzgibbon, Kong, & Odoms-Young, 2013). This study was undertaken to examine the current body of literature and to expand upon the knowledge through an interpretive framework situated in critical black feminism.

Obesity Prevalence. The prevalence of overweight and obesity among the U.S. population has increased dramatically since the 1970s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of obesity among adults has doubled to 33.9% since 1980 to 2008 (Flegal et. al. 2010; Ogden, 2006). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 2009-2010 shows the obesity rate remains elevated with 36.0% of the population being obese (Fryar , Carroll, & Ogden, 2012). Data during this same time period shows similar obesity trends among racial/ethnic minorities. African American women during 2009-2010 showed a significant linear increase in obesity, with 58.5% of African American women being more likely to be obese than any other racial/ethnic group (Fryar et al., 2012).

Obesity Consequences. Obesity poses a number of significant problems, affecting the physical, mental, and financial health of the individual. Research indicates a correlation between weight, diabetes, and heart disease, with greater than 80% of overweight individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes (CDC, 2009). Overweight adults are at an increased risk for developing hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and orthopedic complications; and the incidence of hypertension in overweight adults is greater than the incidence in their non-overweight counterparts (Diaz, 2002). NHANES data shows a linear relationship between BMI and blood pressure with systolic blood pressure increasing 1 mmHg for every gain in BMI of 1.7kg/m2 and 1.25kg/m2 among men and women, respectively (Aneja, El-Atat, McFalane, & Sowers, 2004; Redon, 2001). Likewise, diabetes exhibits a linear relationship with obesity and has increased by 61% since 1990 (Mokdad, Ford, Bowman, Dietz, Vinicor, Bales, & Marks, 2003).

This trend of increased obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is nowhere more evident than in the African American community. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data indicates the majority of African Americans age 18 and over are overweight and/or obese, with African American women representing the most obese population in the U.S. today (CDC, 2009). African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to develop and die from complications of diabetes related to end stage renal disease (ESRD) than Caucasians (Karter et. al., 2002). Data has shown deterioration in health for African Americans in certain disease categories and a widening in standardized mortality rates (SMRs).

Obesity Etiology. The contributors to obesity are not entirely clear (Lahti-Koski, Pietinen, Heliövaara, & Vartiainen, 2002). Many of the factors that affect obesity are modifiable, including inactivity, dietary habits, the built environment, and socioeconomic status. Inactivity, dietary habits, and environmental conditions have received a great deal of attention in public health research, as these factors seem to be the most directly linked to obesity. Additionally, these three factors can be addressed at multiple levels through policy changes. …

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