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Special ReportRacial and Ethnic Disparities in Obesity

Special Report

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Obesity

An in-depth look at the inequities that contribute to higher obesity rates in Black and Latino communities

The Numbers

Adult Obesity Rates

Rates of overweight and obesity have increased across the United States among people of all ethnic and racial groups, all ages and both genders, but some groups are disproportionately affected. Among U.S. adults, Black and Latino populations have substantially higher rates of obesity than do White populations. This is true among both men and women.

All Adults
BlackN/A>
LatinoN/A>
WhiteN/A>

Current Obesity & Overweight Rates Among Adults by Race (2011-2012)

34.9 33.6

68.5%

47.8 28.4

76.2%

42.5 35.4

77.9%

32.6 34.6

67.2%

Adults 20 & up. Source: Wang Y and Beydoun MA. The Obesity Epidemic in the United States — Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiol Rev, 29: 6-28, 2007. And, CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Adults 20 & up. Source: Wang Y and Beydoun MA. The Obesity Epidemic in the United States — Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiol Rev, 29: 6-28, 2007. And, CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Adults 20 & up. Source: Wang Y and Beydoun MA. The Obesity Epidemic in the United States — Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiol Rev, 29: 6-28, 2007. And, CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Obesity Rate Trends Among Adults by Race (1974-2012)

Adults 20 & up. Source: Wang Y and Beydoun MA. The Obesity Epidemic in the United States — Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiol Rev, 29: 6-28, 2007. And, CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Adults 20 & up. Source: Wang Y and Beydoun MA. The Obesity Epidemic in the United States — Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiol Rev, 29: 6-28, 2007. And, CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Adults 20 & up. Source: Wang Y and Beydoun MA. The Obesity Epidemic in the United States — Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiol Rev, 29: 6-28, 2007. And, CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

The Numbers

Childhood Obesity Rates

While the national childhood obesity rate has leveled off, and rates have declined in some places and among some groups, troubling racial and ethnic disparities persist among communities of color. Black and Latino youths have substantially higher rates of overweight and obesity than do their White peers. This is true among younger children, older adolescents, and both boys and girls.

All Children
BlackN/A
LatinoN/A
WhiteN/A

Current Obesity & Overweight Rates Among Adults by Race (2011-2012)

16.9 14.9

31.8%

20.2 12.3

32.5%

22.4 16.5

38.9%

14.3 14.2

28.5%

Children 2 to 19. Source: Wang Y and Beydoun MA. The Obesity Epidemic in the United States — Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiol Rev, 29: 6-28, 2007. And, CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Children 2 to 19. Source: Wang Y and Beydoun MA. The Obesity Epidemic in the United States — Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiol Rev, 29: 6-28, 2007. And, CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Children 2 to 19. Source: Wang Y and Beydoun MA. The Obesity Epidemic in the United States — Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiol Rev, 29: 6-28, 2007. And, CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Analysis

Communities of color have been hit especially hard by the obesity epidemic. This special report explores challenges and strategies for addressing obesity in Black and Latino communities.

Obesity Prevention in Black Communities

Disparate access to affordable healthy food and safe places to be physically active contribute to higher rates of obesity and related illnesses in Black communities in America.

Full Analysis

Obesity Prevention in Latino Communities

Latinos experience high rates of hunger and food insecurity, often have limited access to safe places for physical activity, and have inequities in access to healthcare.

Full Analysis

Public Health Leader Interviews

A series of in-depth interviews with public health experts in Black and Latino communities around the country reveal important insight about challenges and promising strategies for addressing obesity among populations at greatest risk.

Black Communities: Key Findings and Strategic Recommendations

Health leaders from Black communities are deeply aware of the challenges they face in combating obesity that disproportionately affects Black Americans.

More

Latino Communities: Key Findings and Strategic Recommendations

Health leaders from Latino communities are optimistic about the promise of well-planned and effectively implemented policies in achieving better health.

More

Commentary

Learn more from experts and leaders across a range of fields who are working to reduce obesity and improve health among people living in communities of color.

The next step in reducing obesity in cities, towns, and countries

"Mayors have an important role to play in forming partnerships and using their influence to put policies aimed at reducing obesity in motion." - Leon T. Andrews, Jr., National League of Cities

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Tu salud si cuenta: how improving health benefits the entire community

"Working collaboratively and proactively is working in Brownsville, a largely Latino city on the Texas-Mexico border." - Dr. Rose Gowen, MD, Commissioner At-large, Brownsville, Texas

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Policy Recommendations

Public health experts in Black and Latino communities around the country share their recommendations for effective obesity-prevention policies.

  • Black Communities
  • Latino Communities

1

Involve local communities in prevention investments

More

All public and private investments in community prevention should directly involve local communities throughout the process, including partnering with Black residents and organizations, as well as understanding the assets and resources within each community, to determine priorities and develop culturally relevant and sustainable solutions.

2

Equity as a grant criterion and measure

More

Equity should be a criterion and measure for grants authorized to address obesity in communities in order to ensure that addressing disparities is a priority goal for a given project or program, and that grantees are held accountable for addressing disparities. For example, at the outset, a program's needs assessments should identify gaps in health outcomes, behaviors and other community features, and evaluation plans should include measures to demonstrate progress toward closing those gaps.

3

Increased support at all levels

More

Support should be increased at the federal, state and local levels to address racial and ethnic inequities in obesity.

4

Use culturally sensitive communications

More

Ensure community-based obesity prevention and control strategies are culturally and linguistically appropriate and use sustained and comprehensive interventions to maximize effectiveness. Policy solutions must consider and target the variety of factors that impact an individual's environment.

A variety of communication methods and channels — including social media — should be used to most effectively reach communities of color.

Efforts must be culturally competent and include English- and Spanish-language communications campaigns and delivery of social services that use respected, trusted messengers and appropriate channels.

5

Develop strategies with community leaders

More

Strategies and programs need to be developed in conjunction with and led by community leaders and members, including the implementation of common practices, such as joint-use agreements, to allow community members to use playgrounds and fields when school is not in session and improving zoning rules for increased grocery stores in low-income communities.

6

Grants to help minorities open grocery stores

More

Increase grant programs encouraging minority business owners to open grocery stores in low-income communities and ensure that initiatives are sustainable and provide the appropriate support — ranging from financing initiatives to safe, accessible transportation for members of the community — to keep groceries stores open.

Healthy food financing initiatives should help to recruit additional grocery stores and support the availability of affordable, healthy products within existing stores in predominately Latino communities.

7

Limit advertising for unhealthy foods

More

Standards should be set to limit the amount of advertising of foods and beverages of low nutritional value, particularly advertising targeting Black and Latino children, via television, radio, new digital media (internet, social media, digital apps, mobile phones, tablets, etc.), outdoor ads and point-of-sale product placements. Policies should help encourage increased marketing of healthy foods and beverages to children and families.

8

Increase access and use of promotores

More

Increase access to and utilization of promotores (community health workers, peer leaders and health advocates) who more effectively connect Latino communities with public health services, the healthcare system and other social services. Promotores play an important role in promoting community-based health education and prevention in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. New Medicaid regulations permitting reimbursement of community health workers should be leveraged to increase the role of promotores in obesity prevention.

9

Educate Latino parents about childhood obesity

More

Provide education to Latino parents about childhood obesity, and the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, in a culturally sensitive way. Education should include information about enrolling in federal programs designed to ensure healthy and adequate nutrition, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

10

Partner with local communities

More

Partnerships between government, businesses, faith-based groups, community organizations, schools and others should be promoted to increase access to healthy, affordable food and safe places for physical activity in Latino communities and neighborhoods. These partnerships should leverage the local resources and abilities of each of these partners.

Case Studies

Stories from across the country about effective strategies for promoting health and addressing obesity in Black and Latino communities.

  • Black Communities
  • Latino Communities

More

City of Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA

More

NAACP Mississippi

More

NAACP Tennessee

More

Active Living Logan Square

Chicago, Il

More

Healthy Bodega

New York City, NY

More

Healthy RC Kids Partnership

Los Angeles, CA

Over the last decade, Philadelphia has implemented a comprehensive strategy to reduce obesity rates among children. Between 2006 and 2010, the city experienced nearly a 5 percent reduction in the obesity rates among children in grades K through 12. The biggest declines were reported among kids and teens of color: the obesity rate among African American boys dropped by 7.6 percent. The city created strategies to help improve access to healthy foods and increase physical activity and engaged a wide-range of partners. Efforts included removing all sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks from public school vending machines; implementing a comprehensive, district-wide school wellness policy; banning deep fryers in school kitchens and switching to 1 percent and skim milk; and requiring chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus and menu boards. In addition, they targeted interventions in neighborhoods most in need, such as providing education to public school students whose families were eligible for SNAP and creating new financing methods to attract grocers to open stores in lower-income neighborhoods and supporting safe recreation spaces.

More Case Studies & Strategies

Blacks Latinos

The state of Mississippi passed a law in 2012 authorizing local schools boards to allow school property to be used by the public for recreation and sports during nonschool hours. The NAACP Mississippi State Conference is working to implement shared-use agreements with their partner organizations in majority minority school districts. Their initial efforts have been focused in the Jackson and Indianola school districts. Although the work of the NAACP Mississippi State Conference has been health-focused, they have helped leverage shared-use agreements to help improve health at the same time they help meet other needs within the community. This has spoken directly to the needs of the communities they serve.

More Case Studies & Strategies

Blacks Latinos

For decades, Tennessee's childhood obesity rates have steadily increased, while equity gaps between Black and White children widen. In Tennessee, 43.9 percent of African American children are obese compared with 21.1 percent of White children. To address childhood obesity, the NAACP Tennessee State Conference developed an advocacy action plan that expands existing competitive foods guidelines in Jackson-Madison and Haywood County School Districts. This policy addresses competitive food sales at school activities such as fundraisers and concessions. To gain support for the competitive food sales policy, the NAACP Tennessee State Conference developed partnerships with key stakeholders, including parents and families, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses, and others, and engaged the NAACP youth councils to help with proposed alternative food and non-food options for school fundraisers. Many states, including Tennessee, have existing policies on the built environment, school-based policies and competitive foods. However, many of these policies are not being implemented or expanded. Closing persistent disparities requires advocates and public health professionals to build upon existing policies and hold the responsible entities accountable for implementing them and measuring progress.

More Case Studies & Strategies

Blacks Latinos

Active Living Logan Square was designed to increase physical activity among Latino children in Chicago and promote partnerships between school administrators, local policymakers and community members. With city approval, the partnership piloted three Open Streets events, closing four to eight miles of road to motorized vehicles, for use by over 10,000 residents from five diverse communities, in order to help create safe, inviting places for physical activity in a predominantly Latino urban community. Today, additional pilot programs have been launched throughout the country. Part of the success of the program is attributed to the use of social and culturally competent media among planners and program staff, and the delivery of information to the residents by other bilingual community members.

More Case Studies & Strategies

Blacks Latinos

New York City's Healthy Bodega Initiative recruited approximately 1,000 bodegas to increase their offerings of low-fat milk and 450 bodegas to increase their offerings of fruits and vegetables. The city provided promotional and educational materials to encourage consumers to buy the healthier products and call on their local bodega to participate. The campaign led to increased sales of low-fat milk in 45 percent of participating bodegas, increased sales of fruits in 32 percent of participating bodegas, and increased sales of vegetables in 26 percent of bodegas.

More Case Studies & Strategies

Blacks Latinos

Healthy RC Kids Partnership focused on Southwest Cucamonga, a predominantly Latino community in California with high rates of poverty, where two-thirds of residents are considered obese or overweight. The area had few neighborhood amenities — there were no grocery stores selling fresh produce and residents had limited access to safe, open space for physical activity. Healthy RC Kids was established by the city and included collaboration with residents and more than 50 community stakeholders to identify barriers to healthy eating and active living. As a result, more community gardens and farmers' markets were created and the City Council amended the development code to allow vacant land to be used to grow produce and to allow farmers' markets in expanded areas of the city. This eventually led to a new farmers' market in Rancho Cucamonga and plans to open one in Southwest Cucamonga. A United Way grant allowed the Partnership to implement the "Bringing Health Home Program," which provides matching subsidies of up to $50 a month to help Southwest Cucamonga residents purchase fresh produce at local farmers' markets. The city also provides incentives and information for farmers' markets to accept payments from food assistance program recipients.

More Case Studies & Strategies

Blacks Latinos