FIGURE 7-1 Obesity prevalence trends in three ethnic groups.

NOTES: Mex Am = Mexican American. Obesity is defined for adults as a body mass index at or above 30 kg/m2. Data reported for whites and blacks in 1960-1962 (National Health Examination Survey) and 1971-1974 (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) include persons of Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin. Persons of Hispanic origin were excluded from the data for whites and blacks from 1976 onward. Data for Mexican Americans shown for 1976-1980 are from the Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1980-1982). Data are for adults aged 20-74, age-adjusted to the 2000 standard population.

SOURCE: NCHS, 2002 (for 1960 through 2000) and NCHS, 2006 (for 2001-2004).

Figures 7-2 and 7-3 focus on trends among girls (showing data for adolescents) and boys (showing data for school-age children), respectively, between 1976 and 2006. Figure 7-4 shows rates of obesity in children by both their poverty status and their racial/ethnic group, and highlights the differences in the patterns across three groups.

What is most important, in Kumanyika’s view, is that, regardless of the prevalence rates, “the conditions for addressing obesity are not as good in ethnic minority and low-income communities.” She closed by presenting a model that guides research in the African-American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (Figure 7-5). The traditional focus of research on the energy balance issues that cause obesity, she noted, is one of the elements in the middle of the diagram, but a more community-oriented approach takes into consideration the role of the history and social context of each population, as well as the physical and economic environment and the cultural and psychosocial processes that influence personal perceptions and behaviors.

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