The worldwide health issues related to overweight and obesity were recently discussed at the 10th Annual Texas Conference on Health Disparities, an event held at the UNT Health Science Center between June 11th and 12th that brought together experts from all over the country. Almost 70% of the adult population in the United States is either overweight or obese, and the epidemic is raising serious concerns in the medical community.
The conference specifically sought to address health disparities in minority U.S. populations as they relate to obesity. In addition to the high proportion of obese adults in the country, national statistics also show that the prevalence of the condition is higher among certain racial and ethnic groups. Approximately 80% of Hispanics and 77% of African-Americans have a body mass index higher than 25, which is considered overweight or obese.
In answer to these statistics, investigators and researchers offered insights into new methods to fight both the epidemic and the health disparities. Despite the fact that numerous initiatives are having successful results in combating the obesity epidemic, the director of the Texas Center for Health Disparities, Jamboor Vishwanatha, PhD, believes that those in greatest need are the people who don’t currently have access to these interventions.
Keynote speaker at the conference Ken Resnicow, who works as an Irwin M. Rosenstock Collegiate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, presented an evidence-based approach focused mainly on motivational counseling alongside children to help them lose weight and have a healthier lifestyle.
“The intervention worked for everyone, but it worked even better for Latinos,” explained Resnicow about his work in implementing an approach that adapts the method used in treating people with addictions to obesity, according to a press release. “We feel this model is realistic, largely affordable and could be widely disseminated.”
Another project presented at the conference focused on encouraging African-American cancer survivors to engage in a more active lifestyle. “Although research suggests that exercise can reduce the risk of re-occurrence among cancer survivors, African-American survivors are among the least active,” stated the associate professor of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Michelle Martin, PhD, who presented data on a project that provided cancer survivors with the Nintendo Wii Fit gaming platform and a community health adviser to guide them in getting active.
These are two examples of almost a dozen presentations that were featured at the 10th Annual Texas Conference on Health Disparities, an event that was partially supported by funding granted to assistant professor Health Kitzman-Ulrich, PhD, from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
Obesity and health disparities are related topics that have gained the public’s attention in the past years in Texas and San Antonio, in particular. Texas-based online platform Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children has contributed to fighting obesity in the San Antonio region, as the platform was recently granted a one-year, $1.3 million award to fund research and education to decrease obesity in Latino children and support the online network, which includes about 10,000 parents, leaders, academics, and advocates.