"Op-Ed: Adult obesity rate for African-Americans 10 percent higher than the national averagehttp://overcomeobesitynow.org/op-ed-adult-obesity-rate-for-african-americans-10-percent-higher-than-the-national-average/
While urging all youngsters to eat smarter and exercise more, first lady Michelle Obama called attention to the disturbing reality that, as she told an NAACP Convention, “African-American children are significantly more likely to be obese than are white children.”
The disparity, however, doesn’t stop with children. The most serious instance of obesity among Americans of all backgrounds is among people from 45 to 64 years old. Within this age group, the obesity rate for African-Americans is almost 10 percent higher than the national average. That leaves African-Americans of all ages disproportionately vulnerable to obesity-related diseases and shortens our lifespans.
And here in the South, the impact of obesity is all too real. Throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, obesity disproportionately affects the poor, racial minorities and rural residents. The rate of adult obesity in Alabama has soared to more than 32 percent in recent years, and the state is second only to Mississippi as having the largest obese population in the U.S.
When it comes to addressing obesity and its associated health problems, African-American adults need more choices tailored to their needs, not one-size-fits-all solutions. We need an all-of-the-above approach that includes new drug therapies and acknowledges this as a medical crisis impacting our community.
Because it’s widespread. More than 44 percent of African-American adults are obese, compared to 32.8 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Not surprisingly, obesity contributes to a disproportionate incidence of serious diseases among African-Americans.
A greater percentage of African-Americans suffer from heart disease and diabetes than whites. And with hypertension, the contrasts are even starker: High blood pressure afflicts 45.7 percent of African-American women and 43 percent of African-American men but only 31.3 percent of non-Hispanic white women and 33.9 percent of non-Hispanic white men.
The impact of those numbers on African-American families throughout Alabama is obvious and painful. Most likely, folks who grow up with obesity become seniors who are also affected by the condition. Consider that African-American life expectancy is only 70.2 years, compared to an average of 76.6 years for the entire population.
Obesity has a lot to do with that. It is an important reason why African-Americans are less likely than other Americans to live long enough to enjoy their retirements. Other mutually reinforcing problems are inequalities in earnings, savings and access to quality health care.
Because African-Americans face so many obstacles toward staying fit and keeping healthy, there is a need for a full range of remedies to keep adults from becoming overweight, overweight adults from developing morbid obesity and those with weight problems from developing serious health conditions that are debilitating and expensive to treat.
The good news is that seemingly small reductions in weight can contribute to huge and hopeful improvements in adults’ health. A modest five to 10 percent reduction in body weight can save someone between $2,200 and $5,500 in medical costs over the course of a lifetime, according to a study conducted by Stanford University and the RAND Corp.
In order to lose weight and keep it off, healthier diets and more exercise are, of course, crucial. But drug therapies can also be helpful to reinforce — not replace — healthier habits. Among other benefits, the availability of anti-obesity drugs may encourage middle-aged and older patients to overcome the stigma surrounding obesity and discuss the issue with medical professionals.
It goes without saying that drug therapies must not only be available, but affordable and accessible as well. As with so many other health-care services, there are widespread disparities in the use of anti-obesity medications. While more likely to suffer from obesity, African-Americans are 39 percent less likely than non-Hispanic whites to make use of drug therapies.
The nation needs more pharmacologic research about obesity, accelerated drug development and expanded efforts to reach out to the communities in greatest need of the widest range of remedies for this health emergency.
If we know a relatively small amount of weight loss can lead to big changes in outcomes, it’s time we move forward on all those fronts.
More options will mean more African-Americans in Birmingham and across the country tackling this nationwide epidemic. It will mean more families that remain whole, and better lives for the people in the people in them."