Addressing the obesity epidemic at Texas Conference on Health Disparities

June 3, 2015

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Nearly 70 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese.

The statistics are even more alarming among some racial and ethnic groups. Nearly 80 percent of Hispanics and 77 percent of blacks have a body mass index above 25 and are considered overweight or obese.

Despite evidence that interventions are having an impact on the obesity epidemic, the populations with the greatest needs are not being reached, said Jamboor Vishwanatha, PhD, Director of the Texas Center for Health Disparities.

At the Tenth Annual Texas Conference on Health Disparities, June 11-12, speakers from across the country will gather at UNT Health Science Center to explore ways to address the obesity epidemic and take steps to combat health disparities.

One approach that will be presented at the conference uses motivational counseling to help children lose weight and live healthier lives.  Motivational counseling is an evidence-based approach often used when working with those who have addictions, said keynote speaker Ken Resnicow, Irwin M. Rosenstock Collegiate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“The intervention worked for everyone, but it worked even better for Latinos,” Dr. Resnicow said.  “We feel this model is realistic, largely affordable and could be widely disseminated.”

The conference also will feature a project that encourages African-American cancer survivors to be more active. Data from the project will be presented by Michelle Martin, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Although research suggests that exercise can reduce the risk of re-occurrence among cancer survivors, African-American survivors are among the least active,” Dr. Martin said.

To promote physical activity, cancer survivors were provided a Nintendo Wii Fit and were paired with a community health advisor dedicated to improving outcomes for community members.

The two lectures are among roughly a dozen that will be presented by national leaders in the field. The conference is funded in part by a grant to Heather Kitzman-Ulrich, PhD, Assistant Professor, from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

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