Date of Award

Spring 4-25-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Cassandra White PhD

Abstract

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), individuals who identified themselves as African-American or Black have the highest rate of obesity in the United States. The higher prevalence of overweight and obesity among the African-American population correlates to an increased risk for a number of diseases (including heart disease, diabetes, and several cancers) and an increased mortality rate for the African American population. Through focus groups and interviews, the research I will present focuses on perceptions of overweight and obesity among African-Americans, including any cultural beliefs associated with overweight, obesity and African-Americans. I examined cultural norms of body image, food preference (including "soul food" and other foods traditionally associated with African-American culture), and access to healthy foods and how the familial unit deals with issues of overweight and obesity. I also explored popular explanatory models surrounding the cultural acceptance of overweight and obesity in the African-American culture. Finally, I attempted to uncover the role that socioeconomic status plays in the acceptance, belief and/or knowledge of these models. A total of 80 participants who identify as African-American or Black were chosen using non-probability sampling techniques to participate in this research. I conducted 3 focus groups and 60 one on one interviews. Each participant in the focus group and one on one interview filled out a brief questionnaire about their perceptions of their own body image in conjunction with their interview. Varying socioeconomic status was sought amongst interview participants while similar socioeconomic status and education level were sought among focus group participants so that each person within the group felt as comfortable as possible sharing their experiences with weight and food. In my paper, I will discuss common themes that emerged in focus groups and interviews regarding perceptions of obesity among my participants.

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