Prevention of Obesity in Hispanic Population

Obesity Hispanic Population

Obesity means more than just being overweight. It should not be taken for granted because it is a medical condition in which the extra fat of the body accumulates at different sites and causes negative effects on the health of the person (Haslam and James, 2005). This leads to various health problems and thus reduces the quality of life and expectancy. When the body mass index, commonly referred to as BMI in medical terms, of a person becomes greater than 30 kg/m2, he or she is labeled as obese (WHO, 2009).

Although the incidence of obesity is increasing the world over, in this paper we shall consider the trends that have currently been observed in the Hispanic population in America regarding the health problems related to obesity and obesity as a health problem itself.

According to a WHO report, among Mexican women in America, 78% of them have been labeled as overweight or obese, in comparison with the non-Hispanic White women whose overall percentage of obese women is 60.3%. In 2010, it was reported that Hispanic-Americans are 1.2 times more likely to be labeled obese than the non-Hispanic White Americans.

In a study that was conducted in 2009-2010, it was found out that the Mexican-American children were 1.6 times more likely to be labeled overweight as compared to the non-Hispanic White American children.

According to the data obtained from 2007-2010, it was discovered that Mexican-American women were 40% more likely to become overweight when compared to the non-Hispanic White Americans (CDC, 2012).

Therefore, there is an urgent need to make the Hispanic population aware of the detrimental effects of obesity so that they can alter their life style and habits to lead a healthy life.

Prevention and Cure of Obesity in Hispanic Population

Because of obesity, or otherwise, the Hispanic population is on the risk of having diabetes, hypertension, asthma and cardiac problems that can prove to be silent killers for them.

Since statistics have made it clear that the Hispanic population needs to help to make sure that obesity is eradicated from their population, a community-based behavioral analysis needs to be done. It is necessary for the researchers to involve themselves in the Hispanic culture so that they can find out ways to help them out. Although, a good amount of short-term studies have been carried out related to weight management, they have not proved to be helpful in management if weight in the minority populations. It is established that fact that it is indeed not very easy to recruit the minority populations as it is to recruit the White Americans. Moreover, the Hispanic participants who join this program, drop out from it more often these people lose way less weight than the weight participants (Flegal et l., 1988).

Factors associated with obesity

We should now see the factors that have been associated with obesity in the Hispanic population. The first and most important factor is poverty. It has always been the driving force behind any culture. The common trend is that the rich people are skinny whereas the poor people are obese (Sobal and Stankard, 1989)

Then we should consider acculturation. When the Hispanic population assumes that the values pertaining to the while people can be applied on them as well, they end up becoming obese. These people are known to consume more fried meals and less fruit at the same time. Moreover, the because of the low socioeconomic status of these people, they have less low-fat dietary practices. In general, the Hispanic people are known to eat a less varied diet and at the same time they eat a great deal of meat as compared to white people.

Other factors that play a role in obesity are maternal nutrition knowledge and feeding practices. Furthermore another factor that has come into play is cultural beliefs and values like fatalismo. This implies to the very common idea of the Hispanic population that whatever happens, just happens. They do not mind getting a disease, for example diabetes, which has a familial trend. Language barrier is yet another important factor.

What can be done?

We need to figure out ways to improve cultural sensitivity and relevance. The first and foremost thing that needs to be done is the comprehension of the cultural differences that exist.

There is a need to emphasize on the factors like hypertension and diabetes rather than targeting obesity and weight directly. Then we need to inculcate food preferences that are culturally based along with being healthy food choices.

We need to bring into our knowledge the “food pyramid” that will relate to special dietary needs. For instance, the food pyramid that does not have anything to do with a population that does not consume many vegetables, just like the Hispanic population who do not consume many vegetables. There was an occasion when a dietitian, who was demonstrating what a healthy diet should like, brought with her a bowl of Salad, and a grandfather said to that woman get those weeds out of this place.

Thirdly, we need to work with extended families. For example we need to focus on a grandmother who is the head of the family instead of going to each member of the family individually. This is the approach that has been adopted by the therapists who are bilingual and live in the Hispanic culture.

Economic Impact of Obesity in the Latino Community

Needless to say, obesity and the health related problems tend to pose an unequal economic burden when it comes to health care costs for almost all the states throughout the country. Moreover, the Hispanic families also have to work day and day out to cover for the costs of the diseased people in their families. Many of these Hispanic families do not even have the financial resources to afford health insurance and to take treatment. When treatment is not accessible to these people, they suffer from chronic diseases that are a result of obesity. Where most of these people cannot afford treatment, many states are not able to provide these people with the proper medical treatment for the diseases that result from obesity and to take educational initiatives that can help reduce the rate of obesity in the country in general and Hispanic population in particular.

Furthermore, obesity can also have negative effects on the progression of the economy by impacting the productivity at the workplace. Since obese individuals are poor in health, they can be less productive at their workplace (Trogdon, Finkelstein, Hylands, Dellea, and Kamal-Bahl, 2008). For instance there has been a debate that increased rates of absenteeism along with other indirect costs for the employers can be because of obesity. There is another example in which it is argued that when the obese people work at an organization, there are chances for them to claim more money for their health benefits as compared to the people who are not having any such issues. This makes it more costly for the organization to hire these people. On the other hand, some people debate that if obesity is considered a factor while recruiting new workers, it could limit employment opportunities for them that might then lead to discrimination.

According to the International Journal of Obesity, it is reported that discrimination on the basis of weight has risen up to 66% in the past ten years. According to another study, discrimination against the obese people to be at certain commonplaces and institutions was more prevalent than even gender or race discrimination.

Financial Burden

Since obesity causes so many health problems, it complications become a financial burden or the state and at federal levels. According to a study that was conducted in 2002, obesity is likely to be more of a financial burden on American health care than drinking and smoking. It has been reported that the obese people are likely to spend 36% more on health care services, and when they are on medication they are likely to spend 77% more than the healthy individuals. These percentages are even greater than those for the smokers and chronic alcoholics (Journal Study on Health Affairs).

The national expenditure on overweight and obesity accounted for about 9.1% of the total annual medical expenditures, according to a study that was carried out in 1998.

Intervention Strategies

The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery have suggested that the gastric bypass surgeries are known to reduce the size of the stomach. The reduced stomach is then reconstructed with the middle of the small intestines so as to bypass the small intestine that is responsible for absorbing most of the calories. Therefore, the patients who have undergone this surgery tend to eat less and absorb fewer calories.

The surgical interventions are known to reduce the body mass faster than any other method. It should be noted that not all the obese people are suitable for such surgeries. One of the other benefits of these surgical procedures is that it saves the long standing cost of medicines and other health care services that the obese people have to reach for because of their chronic diseases. The life expectancy of these people is also prolonged and they are able to lead a healthier life. People who are not suitable for the surgical intervention should be given other treatments.

Social Marketing

Social marketing can play a major role for the prevention and cure of obesity in the Hispanic population. More people need to get involved in this community-based problem so that they can target the specific populations in specific areas. People should be made aware of the hazardous impacts of obesity on their health. They should be given live demonstration so they know exactly what the therapists are talking about. Awareness campaigns need to be launched at a more extensive level. However, before all these awareness campaigns and social marketing strategies, it is important to educate the people of the Hispanic population. If they are not educated than these measures will be of no benefit for them as well as for the state.


Since the number and severity of complications that can result from obesity is actually, there is a need for the government and other stake holders to help bring the Hispanic population out of this crisis. Not just the government, but also the business leaders as well as private and non-private sectors have to divert their special attention towards this issue. Effective strategies can be figured out if all the political parties in the country collaborate at a big level. We need to realize that this is important because the lives of millions of people along with their financial solvency are at stake because of obesity. It will not be wrong if we say that reduction of obesity in the Hispanic population will greatly reduce the rates of chronic diseases that will result in a decrease in health care costs at the state and federal level.

This roadmap will definitely provide a way put for the development of opportunities and initiatives that will then address the crisis of obesity and its health related problems in not in the Hispanic population but all communities throughout the country.


CDC (2012). Health United States, 2011. Table 74.

Flegal, K.M., Harlan, W.R. & Landis, J.R. (1988). Secular trends in body mass index and skinfold thickness with socioeconomic factors in young adult men. Am J. Clin Nutr, 48(3):544-51.

Haslam, D.W. & James, W.P. (2005). “Obesity.” Lancet 366 (9492): 1197 — 209.

Journal Study on Health affairs: Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is a bimonthly journal devoted to publishing the leading edge in health policy thought and research.

Sobal, J & Stunkard, A.J. (1989). Socioeconomic status and obesity: a review of the literature. Psychol Bull;105(2):260-75.

Trogdon, J.G., Finkelstein, E.A., Hylands, T.P., Dellea, S. & Kamal-Bahl, S.J. (2008) “Indirect Costs of Obesity: A Review of the Current Literature.” Obesity Reviews 9, no. 5:489-500.

WHO 2000 p.9

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