Impact of culture

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

Hispanic and African American Adults Have the Highest Rates of Overweight or Obesity.1-3

Hispanic and African American adults have the highest rates of overweight or obesity

Age-adjusted percentage of persons 20 years of age and over who had overweight or obesity, 2013-2016 (Body Mass Index [BMI] of 25 or greater).1-3

4 out of 5 African American Women Have Overweight or Obesity.1*

4 out of 5 African American women have overweight or obesity

More than half of African American women are affected by obesity, and African American women were 50% more likely to have obesity than non-Hispanic White women.1†

*Age-adjusted percentage of persons 20 years of age and over who had overweight or obesity, 2013-2016 (Body Mass Index [BMI] of 25 or greater).1-3

†Age-adjusted percentage of persons 20 years of age and over who had obesity, 2013-2016. (Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater).1

As a health care professional, you can help play a role in reducing these numbers.

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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.

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Food

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

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Body image

Feelings about body image can vary from culture to culture. Ethnicity/race can have a role in body image and dissatisfaction.5

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Trust

For African Americans, medical mistrust can be traced back to studies such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.6

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Stress

People from certain ethnic populations may experience high levels of stress. Stress can contribute to weight gain.7,8

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Considering these cultural factors when discussing weight management goals with your patients will help you have an open and honest conversation.

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References:

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 Volume 2013 | Article ID 320326. Accessed January 5, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/320326

6. Jaiswal, Jessica. Whose responsibility is it to dismantle medical mistrust? Future directions for researchers and health care providers. Behav Med. 2019;45(2):188-196. doi:10.1080/08964289.2019.1630357.

7. Bulatao, RA, Anderson, NB, eds. Understanding racial and ethnic differences in health in late life: a research agenda. National Academies Press. 2004. doi:10.17226/11036. 

8. Kim, KH, Bursac, Z, DiLillo, V, Brown White, D, Smith West, D. Stress, race, and body weight. Health Psychol. 2009;28(1):131-135. doi:10.1037/a0012648. 

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