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Special Issues Regarding Obesity in Minority Populations

Shiriki K. Kumanyika, PhD, RD, MPH
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From Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, Pennsylvania. Requests for Reprints: Shiriki K. Kumanyika, PhD, RD, MPH, Center for Biostatistics and Epidemiology, College of Medicine, The Pennsylvania State University, P.O. Box 850, Hershey, PA 17033.


Copyright 2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1993;119(7_Part_2):650-654. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-119-7_Part_2-199310011-00005
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Special attention must be given to obesity as it occurs in and affects ethnic minorities (that is, black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians) in the United States. In most of these groups, the prevalence of obesity is substantially higher than in whites, especially among women. Poverty and lower educational attainment, which are associated with higher than average rates of female obesity (independent of ethnicity), affect proportionately more persons in these minority populations than in white populations. Diabetes mellitus and certain other obesity-related conditions occur to a markedly greater than average extent in many minority populations. A high-risk body fat distribution (upper body or central obesity) occurs to a greater extent in some minority populations than in whites. Because of situational and cultural factors, effective obesity prevention and treatment approaches may need to be defined on an ethnicity-specific basis. Increased attention to obesity as it occurs in and affects diverse ethnic groups can help to address critical minority health issues. Such efforts can also broaden and enrich aspects of obesity research for which models based on white populations are inappropriate or limited.

Figures

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Figure 1.
Prevalence of overweight among adult men in U.22

S. minority populations. Data are from references 2-5 and use the same criteria of overweight (body mass index 27.8 kg/m ) and severe overweight (body mass index 31.1 kg/m ). The estimates for American Indians and Alaska Natives are based on self-reported data. (Reprinted with permission from Proceedings of Fifth Annual Nutrition Workshop, 30 October-1 November 1991, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee [In press].).

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Figure 2.
Prevalence of overweight among adult women in U.22

S. minority populations. Data are from references 2-5 and use the same criteria of overweight (body mass index 27.3 kg/m ) and severe overweight (body mass index 32.2 kg/m ) for persons 18 or 20 years of age and older. The estimates for American Indians and Alaska Natives are based on self-reported data. (Reprinted with permission from Proceedings of Fifth Annual Nutrition Workshop, 30 October-1 November 1991, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee [In press].).

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