Social context better indicator of obesity disparities than race

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Washington, May 7 (ANI): Socioeconomic status and social context may be more important than race, when it comes to analysing obesity disparities among women, a study by Johns Hopkins researchers claims.

The authors examined race disparities in obesity among black and white women living in the same social context with similar income and compared these estimates to national data.

It was found that black women were twice as likely to be obese when compared to white women.

However, the researchers found that obesity rates were comparable in a sample of white and black women living in similar social and environmental conditions.

"In a national sample not accounting for race differences in social context, black women had twice the chance of being obese as compared to white women. To date, efforts to explain the disparity in obesity prevalence have primarily focused on individual level factors and little research has focused on social context as a possible explanation. When we examined poor, urban women exposed to the same environment, race disparities in obesity virtually disappeared," said Dr. Sara Bleich, lead author.

Bleich, along with colleagues from the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions examined race disparities in obesity among black and white women living in the same social context with similar income in Baltimore.

Using the data from the Exploring Health Disparities in Integrated Communities-Southwest Baltimore (EHDIC-SWB) study, a cross-sectional face-to-face survey of the adults ages 18 and older, researchers compared estimates to national data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to determine if the race disparity in obesity was attenuated among women living in the same social context.

Obesity was calculated from self-reported height and body weight and logistic regression was used to examine the association between race and obesity.

"Accurately accounting for social and environmental exposures is particularly important for the study of obesity disparities given the growing literature linking individual body weight to a host of environmental factors, both positively and negatively associated with body mass index. Developing policies that focus on modifying social aspects of the environment may reduce disparities in obesity among low-income women living in urban communities," said Dr. Thomas LaVeist.

The results are featured in the latest issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. (ANI)

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