Overweight and Obesity Prevalence-The Majority In the Midst of Minority Populations

The astonishing prevalence of obesity has been carefully documented in leading journals and other scientific and health literature. Statistics published in the Lacent Journal, published in 2013 claimed that 70.9 percent of men and 61.9 percent of women in the United States are overweight or obese. The World Health Organization’s recent statistics claim that 35% of adults aged 20 years and above, worldwide, are overweight, an estimated 205 million men and 297 million women over the age of 20 are obese.

The increase in obesity was not impromptu, nor was it a consequence of an unforeseen, unexpected cataclysmic occurrence. Rather, it occurred largely as a consequence of unbridled consumption of calories unbalanced by the amount of energy being expended to maintain ideal weight. The plethora of conveniences and abundance of assortments of foods from different cultural groups as well as the unprecedented technological advancement that allows people to do all their activities from the comfort of their couches and recliners has exacerbated the risk of weight gain. In addition to all this, there are also some cultural factors that predispose certain population groups to weight gain and their associated health conditions.

According to the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), although the entire nation of United States is struggling with the problem of obesity, minorities tend to be disparately afflicted by it; among them are African Americans who are reported by OAC to have one of the highest rates of obesity in the nation. This is also the causal factor for the high prevalence of type 2 diabetes among them. The risk factors for this trend are both genetic and environmental, which means they include dietary habits, sedentary lifestyles and other cultural factors. Most African American men and women do not engage in the recommended regular exercise of 30 minutes at least four times a week. There are many reasons for this trend including constraints of time, lack of motivation to engage in such activities as well as lack of ideal premises in which to exercise safely. Furthermore, the dominance of what is popularly known as “soul food” in the diet with its profuse amounts of fat, butter and sugar

 

is also a contributing factor to weight gain. This scenario requires urgent and effective weight management interventions targeting this population group, probably by partnering with churches, barber shops, hair salons, radio stations and newspaper outlets. Another way to combat this is by obtaining funding and donations from philanthropies sharing the same vision as Child Obesity Foundation, Inc so that we can scale up community education campaigns. This would help spread the word around and bring necessary awareness about the adverse health effects of obesity.

Native Americans are another minority group that is reported to be predisposed to type 2 diabetes. American Indians and Alaskan natives (often referred to in literature as AI/AN) constitute 2.5 million of the United States population. Approximately 33% of them live on reservations or trust lands. Historically, the AI/AN were prolific hunters, farmers and fishermen. But with the saturation of modern conveniences, they have abandoned these activities, and now they largely subsist on diets saturated with fat, refined carbohydrates and sodium. Instead of wild produce, this population group now has staple foods that include fried bread, home-fried potatoes, pork products and soft drinks. Furthermore, the concentration of fast foods restaurants situated near reservations has led to dangerous consumption of excess calories. The development of reservations has adversely affected the expenditure of energy since ceremonies such as dancing, and other physical activities are not as frequent among AI/AN anymore.

Hispanics/Latino community and Mexican Americans, are the third minority group at risk for obesity-related diabetes. Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and Dominican Americans. Hispanic/Latino Americans have a significant number of obesity-related diabetics. This state is mainly a result of a diet that is rich in carbohydrates such as corn, beans, rice and bread. The adoption of American culture has prompted a shift from traditional cooking methods to frying or other oil-based types of meal preparation. Large food portions, have also led to increased calorie consumption. Sugar-laced drinks have taken the place of more traditional, nutrient-rich fruit-based drinks. This type of diet creates a high-fat and vitamin deficient diet that can be a precursor to development of obesity and its associated health problems.

For all the above minority groups, limited access to healthcare that is culturally appropriate constitutes a barrier to utilizing resources and services that are crucial for fighting and preventing obesity. Healthcare providers need to effectively communicate with their patients about dietary habits, exercise and other health-promoting habits to improve their health. Child Obesity Foundation is poised to address and seal gaps in such an approach. It is also established to prevent obesity altogether through a rigorous program of community education.