Steve Scher talks with obesity epidemic scholar Shiriki Kumanyika about giving people the tools to understand the health implications of their personal choices.
There is an obesity epidemic in America and it is spreading around the world, according the World Health Organization. Most of the world population now lives in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. The Centers for Disease Control says about one third of Adult Americans are obese. Those rates are higher in the black community. Half of African-American women are obese. Worldwide, obesity has doubled since 1980, according to World Health Organization and 42 million children under 5 were overweight or obese in 2013.
In America, obesity is more common among black women than white women. That has been true for decades. However, it is now more common among black girls than white girls. What is happening?
Shiriki Kumanyika is a scholar in the field of nutrition and public health. She is currently president of the American Public Health Association, a non profit focused around the goal of raising health outcomes in America. Obesity leads to higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoarthritis and some cancers. The causes are people eating more foods high in fat, more sedentary lifestyles and physical conditions-bad air, poor urban design, high stress.
Kumanyika, a name she adopted to reflect her African roots, was born and raised in racially segregated Baltimore, Maryland in the 50's and 60's. After spending some time in social work, she found the tools of nutrition gave her a more concrete way to help. She studied the affect of salt on hypertension and by the 70's was among a number of science researchers arguing for a reduction of salt in the American diet. At Johns Hopkins University, her work as a cardiovascular/nutritional epidemiologist led her to study health disparities in general and the impact of obesity on black women in particular. Her work on the obesity epidemic is focused on efforts that lead black women towards positive changes in their diet.