Is the high rates of obesity in minority groups a product of systematic racism?

The Perspective article provides the evidence and potential solutions.

Boston – The higher rates of obesity in blacks, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) compared to other groups in the United States could be attributed to systemic racism, according to a new perspective article published in The Journal of Internal Medicine. The authors present a 10-point strategy to study and solve the public health issues responsible for this disparity.

“First, it is important to realize that the interaction between obesity and racism is real. Once people realize this, they can start treating and treating obesity appropriately in the BIPOC communities,” says co-author Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, Obesity scientist, educator, and policymaker at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

“In writing this article, we wanted to draw attention to the systematic racism in the obesity epidemic and the direct harm that people of color inflict on bearing a serious disease in society,” adds co-author Daniel Aaron, J.D. , MD, attorney with the US Food and Drug Administration, * Fellow at Harvard Law School, and member of the Justice Initiative, a collaboration between Harvard Law School and Howard University Law School with the goal of promoting racial justice.

Stanford and Aaron note that BIPOC suffers from chronic stress exposure to racism in their environments, which may increase the severity of obesity. Also, BIPOC who want to help lose weight have difficulty accessing healthcare, and when they do, they face real and perceived systemic racism within medicine. Moreover, marginalized BIPOC is likely to live in areas with an abundance of stores selling unhealthy foods and a shortage of stores offering nutritious options at affordable prices. Even with access to supermarkets, processed foods are usually cheaper than fruits or vegetables, and processed food companies are engaging in disproportionate marketing toward BIPOC.

“A lot of people don’t realize how the structures, institutions, and racist people can contribute to direct damage to BIPOC, leading to obesity,” Aaron says. Society’s failure to provide basic public health services and comprehensive and equitable medical care to non-white Americans. We also did not hold institutions that benefit from obesity between BIPOC and propagate systematic racism. Alarms have been sounded by many sounds for years, yet not often heard of.

The perspective article stresses that addressing the disproportionate harm caused by obesity to BIPOC will involve changes in public health organizations, medical and research institutions, governments, and corporations. “Instead of pushing for educational campaigns and attempts to ‘enlighten’ minorities, we should instead look at increased accountability and scrutiny for those who aggressively market unhealthy foods to BIPOC and focus their organizations in BIPOC communities. We should aim to provide access to BIPOC to obtain The same rights: money, healthy food, medical care, housing, education, and freedom from discrimination, Aaron says.

Aaron and Stanford aim to stimulate more thinking and transformative policy approaches that place the onus on powerful parties that benefit from existing arrangements and on people and institutions reluctant to change – not on victims of systemic racism. It provides a 10-point strategy for achieving this goal.

“The effects could have far-reaching effects on well-being, as obesity is associated with more than 200 chronic diseases, many of which disproportionately affect BIPOC, which is a risk factor for contracting and death from COVID-19,” says Stanford. “The enormous costs – to lives, health, and wealth – are compounded by not preventing and treating obesity, and we urgently need to study and resolve fundamental issues at the intersection of obesity and systemic racism.”


About Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the largest teaching hospital at Harvard Medical School. The Mass General Research Institute conducts the nation’s largest hospital-based research program, with annual searches of more than $ 1 billion and involving more than 9,500 researchers working in more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In August 2020, Mass General was ranked 6th in US News and World Report List of “America’s Best Hospitals”.

* The opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent those of the Ministry of Health and Human Services / Food and Drug Administration.

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