Cultural factors such as traditions and views about body image can impact whether your patients will accept your weight-management advice. Understanding your patients' cultural nuances can help you create a plan that fits their lifestyle.
Obesity rates by race and ethnicity
As a health care professional, you can help play a role in reducing these numbers.
Hispanic and African American/Black Adults Have the Highest Rates of Overweight or Obesity.1-3
Age-adjusted percentage of persons 20 years of age and older who had overweight or obesity, 2013-2016 (Body Mass Index [BMI] of 25 or greater). 1-3
The influence of culture
Understanding your patients’ culture is important. It may help you to better connect with them and create a weight-management plan that your patients can adhere to. Below are examples of some cultural factors you may consider when having a discussion with your patients about their weight-management plan and goals.
Some cultural behaviors around food can impact weight goals. For example, the expectation of eating everything on one’s plate may lead to weight gain.4
Feelings about body image can vary from culture to culture. Ethnicity/race can have a role in body image and dissatisfaction.5
For African Americans, medical mistrust can be traced back to studies such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.6
People from certain ethnic populations may experience high levels of stress. Stress can contribute to weight gain.7,8
Hispanic/Latino men may be conditioned to eat more meat and fats, whereas Hispanic/Latino women may be more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables based on patterns established by previous generations.9
Among Hispanic/Latino culture there is a belief in fate, that people have little control over some things, which may include their health.4
Considering these cultural factors when discussing weight-management goals with your patients will help you have an open and honest conversation.
1. US Department of Health & Human Services. Obesity and African Americans. Accessed November 3, 2021. https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=25
2. US Department of Health & Human Services. Obesity and Asian Americans. Accessed November 3, 2021. https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=55
3. US Department of Health & Human Services. Obesity and Hispanic Americans. Accessed November 3, 2021. https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=70
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Expert panel meeting on communicating about overweight/obesity with Hispanic American audiences. A meeting sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 14–15, 2016. Accessed November 3, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/state-local-programs/pdf/crosscutting-resources/DCH_Hisp_Comm_Expert_Panel02282018.pdf
5. Chithambo TP, Huey SJ. Black/white differences in perceived weight and attractiveness among overweight women. J Obes. 2013;2013:320326.
6. Jaiswal J. Whose responsibility is it to dismantle medical mistrust? Future directions for researchers and health care providers. Behav Med. 2019;45(2):188-196.
7. Bulatao RA, Anderson NB, National Research Council (US) Panel on Race, Ethnicity, and Health in Later Life, eds. Understanding Racial and Ethnic Differences in Health in Late Life: A Research Agenda. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2004.
8. Kim KH, Bursac Z, DiLillo V, White DB, West DS. Stress, race, and body weight. Health Psychol. 2009;28(1):131-135.
9. Overcash F, Reicks M. Diet quality and eating practices among Hispanic/Latino men and women: NHANES 2011-2016. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(3):1302.