Background and Significance
Within the past ten years obesity and its health-related conditions have cost over 150 billion
dollars and have caused an estimated 300,000 premature deaths in the United States (WHO,
2001). Causal factors contributing to these statistics are primarily due to urbanization,
globalization, increased food production and behavioral changes that include changes in lifestyle
and diet (NIH, 1998).
What has been observed is that these changes and developments in
lifestyles and behavior have contributed to increased numbers of type-2 diabetes, heart disease
and certain types of cancer. Body Mass Indices (BMI) of 25 or higher, poor diet, inactivity, race
and age (2000) are factors that contribute to higher incidences of non-communicable diseases.
The New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene indicates that some 173,500
adult New Yorkers became obese and more than 73,000 were newly diagnosed with diabetes
from 2002 to 2004 (DMH, 2008).
Furthermore, the city’s rates of obesity and diagnosed
diabetes both increased by 17% during the two-year study period.
Obesity increased among
both whites (20%) and Hispanics (14%), whereas the nation experienced a significant increase
only among whites ((7%) http://www.nyshealthfoundation.org/content/article/detail/973). In
addition, the obesity rate among older New Yorkers rose by 28%, while the estimated national
rate held steady. Among foreign-born New Yorkers, the obesity rate shot up by 33%, going from
16.8% in 2002 to 22.4% in 2004(DMH, 2008). These subgroups are significant because whites
and Hispanics comprise nearly two thirds of the city’s population, and the number of aging
Hispanic and foreign-born New Yorkers is increasing rapidly.
Factors Contributing to Obesity
Causal factors related to high incidences of obesity in poor communities of color can be
attributed to; 1) the psychosocial and/or cultural perceptions regarding obesity; 2) the lack of
education about risk factors associated with obesity; and 3) the lack of material resources.
communities where resources are deficient, the exhibition of wealth becomes a marker for status,
success and surplus.
For example, in poor communities, the opportunity to eat at a restaurant is
a marker for success; however, if the quality of food served at the restaurant is low, such
practices contribute to poor eating habits and obesity(Schlienger and Pradignac 2009)
Education about caloric intake and the risk factors associated with obesity are necessary
components often lacking in poorer communities.
Structurally, material resources such as low
cost quality produce, livable wages and healthy prepared food options are nonexistent or scarce
in poorer communities of color.
All of which contribute to obesity rates being higher when
compared to communities where these resources are available(Dammann and Smith 2009).
In 2004 a New York Community Health Survey was conducted by the National Behavioral Risk