Date of Award

Summer 8-20-2018

Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Dora Il’yasova

Second Advisor

Dr. Ike Okosun


The US is experiencing what many in public health are calling an “obesity epidemic”. The American Heart Association estimates that about 70% of the population is overweight or obese. This issue is especially concerning for minority populations as being overweight or obese disproportionately affects African Americans more so than any other racial grouping in the country. African American women, in particular, are more likely than any other demographic to be overweight or obese throughout their life course. Intervention programs are proving to be ineffective in curtailing this epidemic because they aren’t addressing the root cause of the issue: changing the attitudes and behaviors of those most affected by obesity. This capstone explores the complex nature of obesity prevention in regards to social and lifestyle factors that influence behavior among African American women and prevalence of obesity via a literature review of previous research done in this area, categorized in four major areas: lack of comprehensive interventions, impact of culture and lifestyle, how African American women view themselves and their health, and the effects mental health issues have on behaviors that influence obesity. Recommendations will also be discussed of the role public health professionals can play in combating the high prevalence of obesity in this community from the social/behavioral level.