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Compared with whites, Blacks had 51% higher and Hispanics had 21% higher obesity rates

To reduce racial and ethnic disparities in obesity rates we must intensify our efforts to create an environment for healthy living.

Chart: Obesity Among Adults, by Black/White Race or Hispanic Ethnicity and Sex, United States, 2006-2008.

In most of the states examined, blacks had the highest prevalence (number of existing cases in a defined group of people during a specific time period) of obesity, followed by Hispanics, and then whites. Greater prevalences of obesity for non-Hispanic blacks and whites were found in the Midwest and South. Among Hispanics lower prevalence was observed in the Northeast compared to other regions.

Among blacks in 45 states and DC with sufficient respondents, the prevalence of obesity ranged from 23.0% to 45.1%, with a total of 40 states having an obesity prevalence of ≥30%, including 5 states (Alabama, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oregon) with a prevalence of ≥ 40%.

Among Hispanics in 50 states and DC, the prevalence of obesity ranged from 21.0% to 36.7%, with 11 states having an obesity prevalence of ≥ 30%. Among whites in 50 states and DC, the prevalence of obesity ranged from 9.0% to 30.2%, with only one state (West Virginia) having a prevalence of ≥ 30%; 5 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New Mexico and DC had an obesity prevalence of < 20%.

At least three reasons may account for the racial and ethnic differences in obesity. First, racial and ethnic groups differ in behaviors that contribute to weight gain; second explanation may be differences in individual attitudes and cultural norms related to body weight. A third explanation may be differences in access to affordable, healthful foods and safe locations to be physically active; this limited access may negatively impact diet and physical activity levels.

The high prevalence of obesity across all the racial/ethnic groups highlights the importance of implementing effective intervention strategies among the general U.S. population. Given the significant racial and ethnic disparities in obesity prevalence, it is also crucial to ensure that racial/ethnic groups with the greatest need benefit most from these intervention efforts and are engaged in helping identify effective strategies in their communities. To reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the prevalence of obesity, an effective public health response is needed that includes surveillance, policies, programs, and supportive environments achieved through the effort of government, communities, workplaces, schools, families, and individuals.

Data Source:

CDC. Differences in Prevalence of Obesity Among Black, White, and Hispanic Adults --- United States, 2006--2008. MMWR 58(27);740-744.

Map: Obesity for Blacks by State - BRFSS, United States, 2006 - 2008.

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