Scholarly Perspectives on Obesity among Black Women

By Johnson, Portia; Wesley, Yvonne | ABNF Journal, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Scholarly Perspectives on Obesity among Black Women


Johnson, Portia, Wesley, Yvonne, ABNF Journal


Abstract: There are a disproportionate number of Black women who are either overweight or obese. Health professionals who are overweight or obese were found to have less confidence in weight management practice. Studies show that overweight and obese nurses avoid the topic of obesity with their overweight and obese patients. This article describes the biological, psychological, social and cultural factors which may influence obesity in Black women. Specifically, this synthesis of the literature raises the question whether Black nurses with relevant health knowledge have different rates of obesity when compared to Black women that are not registered nurses.

Key Words: Obesity, Weight Control Behaviors, Black Women, Nurses

Obesity continues to be a serious problem in the United States (U.S.). According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2009), a large portion of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. Furthermore, CDC reports that for 2007 -2008, 49.6% of Black women compared to 33% of White women are obese (Flegal, Carroll, Ogden, & Curtin (2010). The report showed that Black women had an increase in obesity from 38.2% during the time period 1988-1994. The disproportionate percentage of obesity in Black women continues to escalate.

Reasons for obesity in America are multi-faceted and complex (Sampsel & May, 2007). Similar to citations from ten years ago, Sampsel and May claim that the issue of obesity is not a simple problem of willpower or self-control. These authors note that appetite regulation and energy metabolism are complex and are associated with a variety of co-morbidities. Moreover, Sampsel and May suggest that reasons and motivations to lose weight should be examined. Even though the etiology of obesity is not well understood, biological, psycho-social, and cultural factors are suggested to contribute to obesity (Sampsel & May, 2007).

Overweight and obese health professionals have been found to lack confidence in weight management practices (Zhu, Norman & While, 201 1). Although race/ethnicity was not provided by the investigator, Hicks, McDermott, Rouhana, Schmidt, Seymour, & Sullivan (2008) findings show that the public has more confidence in normal-weight nurses' instruction about diet and exercise than nurses who are overweight and obese. Furthermore, Miller, Alpert, & Cross (2008) findings from a survey of 760 predominately (92%) female nurses, showed that overweight and obese nurses avoid the topic of obesity with their overweight and obese patients. However, Watson, Oberle, & Deutscher (2008) did not find a significant association between RNs (registered nurses) weight status and their perception of being a role model, in a sample of 626 RNs. The topic of obesity among Black nurses has ramifications among nurses as well as patient populations in general. This paper provides a synthesis of perspectives on obesity and develops a platform to raise the question of whether weight control behaviors among Registered Nurses (RNs) who are Black differ compared to other college educated Black women.

FACTORS INFLUENCING OBESITY

Biological Influences

According to Bray, Bouchard and James (1998), obesity is defined as excess body fat. These authors state that obesity has also been further delineated on the basis of cell characteristics, genetic syndromes, neuroendocrine mechanisms, etiological factors and other approaches. Similar to his 2007 definition of obesity, Bray acknowledges the difficulty in measuring obesity as it depends on factors such as gender, age, and ethnic group. Overweight, obesity and adiposity are the commonly used expressions for increased body fat and have replaced the older terms such as corpulence, polysarcie and embonpoint (Bray, Bouchard & James, 1998, p. 32). The 1998 definition of obesity by Bray, Bouchard and James still hold true today as Del Parigi (2010) describes obesity as a state of excess adipose tissue mass. …

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