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COVID-19 infection is significantly more dangerous for certain groups, including older adults, immunocompromised people, and people with obesity.
As a person’s body mass index (BMI) – a measure based on a person’s weight in relation to their height – increases, their chance of serious COVID-19 infection also increases sharply.
Loneke Blackman Carr, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, saw an opportunity to shed light on the link between race and obesity and the health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It made everyone vulnerable, especially if your health was not in top shape,” says Blackman Carr. “We need to address it at the national level for everyone because it is a threat to public health. But it is even more threatening to those communities that are experiencing differences in obesity.”
Obesity affects black societies disproportionately. This is largely due to structural factors, such as the increased likelihood that black individuals will live in areas where healthy food is deficient and unhealthy fast food is abundant.
This work is related to Blackman Carr’s research expertise, which focuses on health inequalities in the treatment and prevention of obesity. In particular, Blackman Carr studies the effects on black women, who have the highest rate of obesity of any group in the United States. Obesity among black women is 60% compared to 40% of the general adult population.
“Given my area of work, it was very clear that there was a link between obesity and COVID-19,” says Blackman Carr. “So it seemed that there was also an opportunity to shed light on the need for obesity treatment that reaches those who need it most.”
A need to expand the subject area
In a recently published paper in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, Blackman Carr and her colleagues Caryn Bell at Tulane University, Candice Alick at North Carolina Central University and Keisha Bentley-Edwards at Duke University drew up a series of recommendations for behavioral weight loss interventions to address the unmet needs of black people with obesity.
Behavioral weight loss involves changing diet and physical activity levels to combat obesity, as opposed to pharmacological interventions, combined with psychological behavior change theory.
One recommendation from the group is to “expand the research lens” to focus on blacks’ experiences with these interventions by increasing the number of black researchers working in this field.
“Research questions are generated by people and scientists who have a particular perspective,” says Blackman Carr. “As we expand the field of who does the research and who asks, we also generate more, potentially more new, questions.”
The article also emphasizes the importance of improving the recruitment and retention of black men and women in behavioral weight loss intervention studies. Currently, most participants in these studies are white, middle-, or upper-class women.
When black men participate in these studies, they tend to have results comparable to white men in the same study. Yet black women tend to have worse outcomes than white women.
The first step in developing interventions that address these inequalities is to have studies with enough black participants to draw meaningful conclusions.
The researchers recommend using qualitative methods, such as interviews and focus groups, to better understand the lived experiences of black participants.
To combine policy with behavior change
Blackman Carr has found that many black women take on the “superwoman role”. Black women often serve as caregivers not only for their children, but their entire extended family and community network. Constant care for others can have a negative impact on what black women eat and how much physical activity they can perform.
“Being in constant service to others in this multiple caregiver role is a valued position because it has been necessary for the progress and survival of black women and our families,” says Blackman Carr. “But it can also be a barrier for some when it comes to actually devoting time to yourself to engaging in the behavioral weight loss intervention.”
The article also discusses the importance of engaging in policies and programs that can support research.
National anti-poverty programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) already support healthy food choices. Combining extension education with behavioral weight loss interventions can create a more holistic approach to black societies.
“It would really look like a marriage between these two areas of behavior change, but also knowledge and skill building,” says Blackman Carr.
Blackman Carr’s future research will work to identify which elements of behavioral weight loss interventions work for black women and develop others to create more informed and effective interventions for this population.
Basically, says Blackman Carr, the conversations that the article is, the work travels toward addressing systemic racism.
“Racism is structural,” says Blackman Carr. “Our neighborhoods are not the same … it’s the lived experience of the place where people live today that shapes our health, and which has certainly been affected by race in the United States, and so we can not be afraid. to talk about it, because that’s how we come up with positive solutions that ultimately lead to a healthier America. ”
Black women are more prone to postmenopausal weight gain than white women More information: Loneke T. Blackman Carr et al., Responding to Health Disparities in Behavioral Weight Loss Interventions and COVID-19 in Black Adults: Recommendations for Health Equity, Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Inequalities (2022). DOI: 10.1007 / s40615-022-01269-8
Quote: COVID-19 and Obesity Differences for Black Societies (2022, May 12) Retrieved May 12, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-covid-obesity-disparities-black.html
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