Overweight and Obesity in African American Youth
Prevalence of Obesity in African American Youths
• Currently, 35.9 percent of African American children age 2-9 are overweight or obese, compared to 31.7 percent of all children those ages.
• Among young African American children, 11.4 percent of those ages 2-5 are already obese.
• Over two decades, the prevalence of obesity climbed from 10.5 percent to 18.1 percent among all adolescents ages 12-19. For African American adolescents, the prevalence of obesity rose from 13.4 percent to 24.4 percent.
• The statistics are even more alarming for African American adolescent girls ages 12-19. By 2007-2008, 29.2 percent were obese—the highest prevalence of any age group by gender, race or ethnicity. By comparison, fewer than one in five Hispanic or white adolescent girls were obese.
Causes and Determinates of Overweight and Obesity
A complex interplay of social, economic, and environmental factors contribute to higher overweight and obesity among African American children.
• The Food Environment
* A study of more than 200 neighborhoods found four times as many supermarkets in predominately white neighborhoods as in predominately African American neighborhoods. For both whites and African Americans, the presence of at least one neighborhood supermarket is associated with an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption.
* Easy access to chain supermarkets is associated with lower obesity prevalence and adolescent body mass index (BMI), especially among African Americans.
* African American middle school students have less access to healthy food at school than their white peers.
• Media Influence
* African American youths spend more time watching television compared with Hispanic or white youth.
* Research shows that the number of hours spent watching television is positively associated with increased caloric intake, overweight and obesity.
• The Built Environment – Environmental factors involving transportation, infrastructure, and safety limit African American children’s options for physical activity.
* Residents of predominately African American neighborhoods have fewer opportunities for physical activity. These communities are significantly less likely to have parks, green spaces, pools or beaches.
* African American parents of youth ages 9-13 report more barriers to their children’s physical activity than white parents. The barriers include transportation problems, concerns about neighborhood safety and the expense and availability of local opportunities. Of African American parents, 30.6 percent cite a lack of opportunities as a barrier to physical activity, compared with only 13.4 percent of white parents.
“WOW!” This information is very disturbing. I found at least six other sources that quoted pretty much the same data. There have been many wake up calls sounded in the articles I have been writing over these months, but this to me is the scariest of them all.
Our children and grandchildren need us to care about them enough to help them stop certain behaviors. They are our future.
What does this mean if their current circumstances lead to high morbidity (sickness) rates and even higher early mortality (death) rates? How many of us still look at our children and say “Oh he or she just hasn’t gotten rid of their baby fat.”
If we cannot figure out how to take better care of ourselves, we must take better care of our children. It will not be enough to get healthy food for them and continue to eat unhealthy in front of them.
We talked about adults needing support to lose or not gain weight. Children are no different. They need those who love and care for them to model good behavior. It is never too late. You can start today!
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