By: Kosta Patsiopoulos
In September 2014, The State of Obesity published an article analyzing statewide efforts to prevent obesity in black communities. The analysis explains the obesity disparity between African Americans and Whites (47.8% of African Americans are obese whereas 32.6% of Whites are obese). These disparities seem to be directly correlated to the “[a]ccess to affordable, healthy food”, “[h]igher exposure to marketing of less nutritious foods”, and “[l]imited access to safe places to be physically active”. The significance of these inequalities corresponds with “obesity related healthcare costs for preventable diseases”.
In the past few years, progress has been made, starting with school children. In fact, Philadelphia’s strategy to close the racial obesity gap among children has been successful. Over the past decade, the City of Philadelphia removed sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks from public school vending machines, banned deep fryers in school kitchens, and switched all milks served at school to 1 percent and skim milk. Furthermore, the City of Philadelphia created “new financing methods to attract grocers to open stores in lower-income neighborhood . . . .” Between 2006 and 2010 there was a 5 percent reduction in the obesity rates among children in kindergarten through twelfth grade. More notably, the most significant decline was among African American boys at 7.6 percent.
Public health starts with incorporating a healthy diet into our lifestyles; however, equal access to and knowledge of healthy foods need to be readily available to all races and throughout all neighborhoods. Small changes, similar to those made in the City of Philadelphia, go a long way. Imagine what the reduction in the obesity rates would have been among the citizens of Philadelphia if the City of Philadelphia implemented this “school-strategy” throughout the entire city.
Source: The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, Special Report: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Obesity (September 2014), http://stateofobesity.org/disparities/blacks/