Essay on Health Disparity: Obesity Among African Americans

Published: 2021/11/12
Number of words: 1284

African Americans make up 13.2 percent of the total United States population (Fitzgibbon et al., 2011). Importantly, African Americans in the United States have a long history, and despite this, they still face numerous challenges. As a group, black communities experience significant disparities with chronic conditions. Some studies indicate that this group experiences increased mortality rates due to cancer and other chronic medical conditions. Nevertheless, obesity and overweight remain to be the leading cause of problems among this population. Obesity disproportionately impacts low-income African Americans, including women and children. More importantly, a variety of variables are likely to interact in utterly unknown ways to lead to this disparity in health. Compared to other racial classes like the Caucasian Americans, African Americans are three times more likely to be overweight.

Several factors lead to instances of obesity in many black communities. One of these factors is physical inactivity. According to Corral et al. (2011), an increased prevalence of obesity results from sedentary behavior, predominant among African American youths. Research also reveals that most African American children spend much of their time playing video games and watching television, which significantly adds to the risk (Corral et al., 2011). However, it is believed that most cases of obesity in these communities start at childhood, developing progressively to adulthood. Another reason for the increased rates of obesity among this group is the lack of socio-economic empowerment. Many black communities in the United States are underdeveloped, and most African Americans live in inner cities where social amenities, including hospitals and schools, lack. The second significant contribution to African American obesity is parental influence, particularly when it comes to childhood obesity (Sealy, 2010). Children rely on their parents for literally everything. It is at these moments that specific feeding patterns are taught; some of these feeding habits significantly increase the chances of obesity. Research indicates that dietary attributes are observed in early childhood and continue to develop to adulthood (Sealy, 2010). Other studies found that parents’ beliefs and habits about nutrition are taught and established in childhood, and children grow to understand that some eating habits are appropriate.

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Food availability is also a significant factor that leads to obesity among African American communities (Rowe, 2010). Most African Americans live in obesogenic neighborhoods or in areas that provide low-cost, tasty, and calorie-dense foods with insignificant physical activity resources. There more fast food places in African American communities compared to white communities. More importantly, supermarkets in black communities offer less healthy food options than those in white communities. People living near supermarkets, however, consume more nutritious and higher quality foods, and these factors tend to reduce the risk of obesity in communities near supermarkets (Rowe, 2010). Moreover, some studies note that most African American communities lack access to businesses that advocate for healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. Lack of education, particularly in matters of nutrition, is also a factor in this case. African American communities need to be educated on the benefits of eating a balanced diet and nutritious foods.

Most cases of obesity in black communities are solved by establishing a fitness center. A fitness center is practical, but it is essential to understand that the issue of obesity in African American communities cannot be solved by only providing fitness centers as other factors lead to this problem. The factors that scholars believe are more predominant include African American history, culture, environment, and socioeconomic factors (Corral et al., 2011). For African Americans to establish an identity that does not consist of having obesity there is a need to transform their ways of thinking. Also, views and beliefs greatly aid in increasing the rates of obesity in these communities. How a person is portrayed in the African American culture is of great importance, and at times it has adverse effects. For example, African American culture characterizes excessive weight among African Americans as breadwinners; being overweight may also mean, according to African American culture as the ability to afford expensive food, such as fried foods and meat (Corral et al., 2011). In addition to this, there is an idea with African American communities that big is better, making more African Americans more comfortable with higher body mass indexes. This notion also hinders the efforts to take control of obesity.

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Obesity is a serious health concern, and it is one of the conditions that leave individuals vulnerable to other medical illnesses. People with obesity significantly increase their chances of contracting other diseases including cancer and diabetes (May et al., 2012). For instance, about eight to five percent of people with type-II diabetes are obese (May et al., 2012). Similarly, when it comes to conditions such as heart diseases and stroke, people with obesity are more likely to develop high levels of triglycerides, high blood pressure, and Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. All of these are risks for heart diseases and stroke. In addition to causing heart diseases and stroke, obesity leads to the accumulation of excess body fats around the abdomen, which may lead to the production of harmful chemicals that may trigger death (May et al., 2012). Deaths resulting from heart diseases and stroke are prevalent among African Americans compared to other racial groups. Obesity also enhances the chance of attracting cancer (May et al., 2012). Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and with obesity rates being so high, it is impossible to miss the link between these two conditions. Obesity and being overweight can significantly increase an individual’s chances of contracting cancer, including colon cancer, kidney, esophagus, and breast and uterine cancer in women.

Obesity is a significant health issue among African American communities. Obesity excessively affects low-income African Americans with other unexplained complexities contributing to the prevalence of this instance. Factors including physical inactivity, food availability, and parental influence significantly increase obesity rates among black communities. Similarly, obesity can lead to detrimental health instances. For instance, obesity can lead to cancer, heart diseases, and stokes. People, particularly obese women, are more likely to get breast and uterine cancer. All these risks dramatically increase the morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans. Also, these risks threaten the survival of healthy families within black communities. Therefore, there is a need to educated African Americans regarding the importance of taking care of their health and minding what they eat. One thing that can help foster change among these communities is having people among these communities, encouraging the need for physical activity, and encouraging the need for eating nutritious foods. Such intervention will significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by obesity. Eating healthy and gaining the appropriate amount of physical activity may be challenging for African Americans, so there is a need to engage governmental and non-governmental institutions in this intervention.


Corral, I., Landrine, H., Hao, Y., Zhao, L., Mellerson, J., & Cooper, D. (2011). Residential segregation, health behavior and overweight/obesity among a national sample of African American adults. Journal of Health Psychology17(3), 371-378.

Fitzgibbon, M., Tussing-Humphreys, L., Porter, J., Martin, I., Odoms-Young, A., & Sharp, L. (2011). Weight loss and African-American women: a systematic review of the behavioural weight loss intervention literature. Obesity Reviews13(3), 193-213.

May, A., Kuklina, E., & Yoon, P. (2012). Prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors among US adolescents, 1999-2008. Pediatrics129(6), 1035-1041.

Rowe, J. (2010). Voices from the inside: African American women’s perspectives on healthy lifestyles. Health Education & Behavior37(6), 789-800.

Sealy, Y. (2010). Parents’ food choices: obesity among minority parents and children. Journal of Community Health Nursing27(1), 1-11.

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