African Americans are one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States with part or total ancestry from any of the black racial groups of Africa. African-Americans make up about 13% of the U.S population. They are the second largest minority population, following the Hispanic/Latino population. Despite all efforts to improve the general Health and reducing disparities in the United States, minorities, especially African Americans still experiencing health disparities and suffering from chronic health issues, live in poverty, have difficulty obtaining health care. Inequities in income, lack access to quality healthcare, access to quality education and many other factors that influence a person’s chance to live longer and healthier life. African American today still lack the power over decisions and actions that could eliminate health disparities. These health disparities that still African American experience, contribute to higher rates of obesity and related illnesses in African American communities. Obesity is more prevalent in the African-American community and has been a growing concern in recent decades. There are many factors and barriers that contribute to obesity among African Americans. Why is Obesity an issue in the United States? And why is Obesity a disparity among African Americans?
Obesity is one of the most common medical problems in the world. Even though Americans today are aware and have more knowledge of the impact of obesity on health than ever before, but obesity is more prevalent today than ever before. African Americans are the most obese of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States. the prevalence of obesity among African American continues to increase. In 2015, The death rate for African Americans was generally higher than whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide, according to the US department of health and human services.
Everyone needs some fats in his body in order to live, but an excessive body fat is considered as obesity. Obesity in America today is more prevalent than it was in 2000. According to the centers for disease control and prevention, more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have obesity, it is not just a weight problem and how you look but people who are obese are at an increased risk for many serious health issues including Heart disease and stroke “cardiovascular disease (CVD) ranks as the number one killer of African Americans, claiming the lives of 36% of the more than 290,000 African Americans who die each year. It was also reported that the rate of high blood pressure in African Americans in the U.S. is among the highest in the world”. (American Heart Association 2005). High blood pressure, Diabetes that is a major cause of early death, Cancer, Reproductive problems obesity may cause infertility issues in women. Gallbladder disease and gallstones, Osteoarthritis, and some breathing problems, such as sleep apnea and asthma.
Obesity, in general, is identifying as weighing above the normal and ideal weight for a healthy individual. “Weight that is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height” according to center for disease and control and prevention. In order to know that your weight is healthy or not doctors classify people as either underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese. there is a measure called Body Mass Index or BMI and it is an estimate of body fat and is the most widely used diagnostic tool within the health industry, it is the calculation of body weight in relation to height. (BMI ?30 kg/m2) is obese and (BMI ? 25 kg/m2) is overweight. There is a difference between obesity and overweight and the difference is that Obesity means having too much body fat, while overweight means weighing too much. I have never heard of BMI before it’s something new to me, and when I use it I found out that I’m overweight! I used to think that I’m in good shape, so I need to make healthy changes in my eating habit.
More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and Obesity is a great threat to one’s health.
There is no denying that everyone wants to have a well-built body, and not to be obese, obesity is not just how we look, but it’s also a risk factor for many health issues. According to the World Health Organization, rates of obesity are higher for African American than White, and sure there are many reasons for that. there is no single cause of obesity but there are some factors including socioeconomic status, culture, and genetics that may be contributing to the problem of obesity among African American. “The association of low socioeconomic status with increased use of alcohol and cigarette smoking increased unemployment, and a higher caloric intake has been observed in the economically heterogeneous adult Black population”. (American Journal of Public Health 1992). So, there is a relationship between neighborhood disadvantage and health.
“Inequitable access to healthy foods as determined by socioeconomic factors could influence the diet and health of a population”. (Ruth S.M Chan and Jean Woo.2010).
Increased obesity was linked to low income, low-income families usually live in a disadvantaged neighborhood which has poor access to full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets that offer fresh food and restaurants that serve healthy food, in those areas you can find that the number of fast food restaurants is significantly high especially near schools compared to fast food restaurants in high-income neighborhoods. Consumption of processed and convenience foods regularly may contribute to obesity, because fast foods contain fat, saturated fat, high calories, and too much sugar that are not good for one’s health. Sometimes healthy food may be more expensive if available and this is a big problem for low-income families. Also, education contributes in obesity, people with lower education who make less money are more likely to have several chronic diseases, including obesity, and environment play an important role in obesity too, as Dr. Tony Iton said: “your zip code is more important than your genetic code”. The area or the neighborhood where a person lives affects his health positively or negatively. Poor neighborhoods are neglected by politicians: Insufficient services, poor transportation, less athletic facilities, parks. People who live in poor neighborhoods are less healthy compared to those who live in good neighborhoods. Violent and crimes that occur in poor areas preventing people from being active outside. Children attend under-funded schools, that serve unhealthy foods, those are things that they have no control of.
Culture may also contribute to obesity. Being beautiful differs from one culture to another, Many African-American views that being obese as part of their culture, I’m from North Africa and in the south of my country despite the development of society people still view that obesity is a symbol of beauty and wealth especially for women, in their culture being fat is beautiful. And really, I know families in the south of my country who prepare their daughters to get married by forcing them to eat more in order to attract rich families and a good husband. But women have started to change their view of beauty and this culture began to disappear, but it still exists. But I think that culture contributes only in a small part of the cause.
Science shows that genetics influence whether you become obese or not. “New research indicates that people with certain genetic variations may tend to graze for food more often, eat more meals, and consume more calories every day, as well as display patterns of seeking out high-fat food groups”. (Health the Basics, 11th ed). Genes play an important role in obesity. Parents who are obese are more likely to have overweight children.
Obesity has become a serious and significant health problem in modern life in the United States not only because of the serious health consequences associated with obesity but also because of the economic costs that affect most people. The treatment and health consequences of obesity-related illness cost billions of dollars a year and impose an economic burden on the healthcare systems. “The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who have obesity were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight”. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The community and public health intervention programs that tackle the problem of obesity have been met with little success and the prevalence of obesity is still rising. I believe that in order to combat obesity we have to target the Barriers that contribute to obesity at personal, environmental and socioeconomic levels. Understanding the causes and contributing factors of this disparity will help in creating the good strategy in weight-loss intervention since there is no single cause of all overweight and obesity, there is no single way to prevent or treat overweight and obesity that will help everyone (CDC, 2009). there is no one quick solution or easy fix to the issue of obesity but government community and individuals should work together and make the change sooner rather than later. The government should focus on the Socioeconomic factors: increase the minimum wage to enable working families to buy the healthy foods, it should also restrict the production of junk and cheap foods, restricting junk food advertising, and Subsidize healthy foods in programs for low-income families. Individuals should change their eating lifestyle by eating healthy foods and increasing physical activity by these changes life expectancy can be increased, and individuals can live a healthy life.