A new study by James B. Kirby, Ph.D., and Lan Liang, Ph.D., researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and other researchers investigated the complex relationship between racial/ethnic composition of communities and obesity levels.
They found that living in a community with a high concentration of Hispanics was associated with an increase in body mass index (BMI) and obesity among non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics. However, living in communities with a high Asian concentration resulted in lower BMI and lower odds for obesity among non-Hispanic whites.
This is one of the more exciting areas of obesity research deals with community-level characteristics that can promote unhealthy lifestyles and obesity. These include lack of sidewalks, minimal food selections, and even the racial/ethnic makeup of a community.
The study based its findings on nationally representative data collected from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey pooled from 2002 to 2007. Census data yielded information on poverty and racial/ethnic composition at the community level.
Blacks were the most likely group to be obese, with a prevalence of 36.1 percent. Next came Hispanics (28.7 percent), followed by whites (24.5 percent), and Asians (7.1 percent).
Hispanics living in areas where 25 percent or more residents were Hispanic had higher BMIs and were more likely to be obese compared to other individuals. Whites living in these Hispanic communities also had higher BMIs and were more likely to be obese. However, whites living in Asian neighborhoods had lower BMI scores and rates of obesity.