WASHINGTON (CN) – In response to the roughly 25 percent obesity rate in the United States, the Center for Disease Control held a conference Monday to fight the epidemic that is hitting blacks and Hispanics the hardest.
The discrepancy of obesity ratios across racial and ethnic lines is astounding. Of the three groups studied, blacks had by far the highest rate of obesity, at 36 percent, followed by Hispanics, at 29 percent, and finally by whites, at 24 percent.
The study attributes the racial and ethic discrepancies to differences in behavior, where minorities are less likely to exercise during their free time. Minority women are also more comfortable with heavier bodies than white women, the study concludes, and healthy food is harder to come by in poor neighborhoods, where grocery stores are scarce.
“If we have any hope of stemming the rise in obesity, we must intensify our efforts to create an environment for healthy living in these communities,” Dr. William Dietz of the CDC noted of blacks and Hispanics.
States have a 2010 objective to reduce obesity to 15 percent of adults
Aside from race and ethnicity, the Midwest and the South are more obese than the West and the East, and the ratios of obese men and women differ greatly across the three groups.
Obesity in the United States has doubled over the last 30 years and is associated with increased risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
But the prevalence of obesity is likely even higher than reported. “The prevalences of obesity reported in this study likely are underestimated because height commonly is over-reported and weight underreported,” reads the study.
Obesity of women is more affected by race or ethnicity than that of men. The study contributes this to differing ideal body image between women of the three groups.
Women are more Obese than men in black and Hispanic communities. The opposite goes for whites. For blacks, 39 percent of Women are obese, compared to almost 32 percent of men. For Hispanics, about 29 percent of Women are obese, compared to 28 percent of men. And for whites, men are more than 25 percent obese, compared to 22 percent of women.
Discrepancies can also be observed between regions, where the South and Midwest are more obese than the West and Northeast. The lowest obesity rates for blacks were seen in New Hampshire at 23 percent, with Maine being the highest at 45 percent. For Hispanics, the lowest proportion was seen in Maryland, 21 percent, whereas the highest was observed in Tennessee, at 38 percent. For whites, the District of Columbia had the lowest ratio of obese people, 9 percent, followed by Hawaii at 16 percent. The greatest ratio for whites was recorded at 30 percent in West Virginia.
In 40 states, the obesity prevalence for blacks was at or above 30 percent, compared to 11 states for Hispanics.
To counter these factors, the CDC has funded programs the study recommends that provide access to more exercise areas in minority neighborhoods, incentivized grocery stores to open in these neighborhoods, and public health programs, and is discussing what more it can do to reduce the discrepancies between the three groups.