Posted on October 31, 2011

Poor, Minorities More Likely to be Obese. But Why?

Louise Knott Ahern, Lansing State Journal, October 29, 2011


More than 65 percent of Michigan residents are either overweight or obese–making the mitten state the 10th fattest in the nation, according to statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But just like the nation in general, Michigan’s obesity statistics reveal large gaps among certain groups of people.


• Nearly 80 percent of black women and 75 percent of Hispanic women are overweight or obese compared to 60 percent of white women.

• While roughly 35 percent of white Americans report being physically inactive, more than 50 percent of blacks and Hispanics report a sedentary lifestyle.


Researchers are studying myriad factors–from the impact of living in crime-ridden neighborhoods to the cost of food.

They’re careful how they talk about it. They refer to an “interaction” among poverty, race and obesity. While they know the three are linked, there is no research yet that can pinpoint a definitive cause and effect.


Nearly 15 years ago, HUD offices in several American cities–none in Michigan–gave thousands of poor women the chance to move from public housing projects to more affluent neighborhoods.


Experts say poor people and a disproportionate number of minorities live in areas lacking adequate grocery options, so-called food deserts.


The health department has been hosting the meetings–called social justice workshops–around Ingham County for the past couple of years.

Over the course of a four-day workshop, participants discuss how social determinants, oppression and privilege influence health and people’s choices. Later they look at data on health disparities and talk about how different life experiences could lead to different health status.