Body style preference of African American females impacting their health


The preference of some African American women toward a larger, curvier body type may be a significant barrier to maintaining healthy weight, a key factor in helping prevent chronic illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a new research study has found.

The research indicates that measures of what medical standards consider as normal, overweight and obese may not be as relevant to some African American women’s interpretations of their size classifications, meaning that a "one size fits all" approach to weight loss may not work for this group.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was led by Heather Kitzman-Ulrich, PhD, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Community Health at UNT Health Science Center.

Jennifer Cole (MPH ’14)

In part, it conducted six focus groups to explore the influence that body image and appearance have on these women’s motivations to lose weight.  Key findings showed a disconnect between body size and health status, suggesting that body mass index (BMI) standards may not be relevant to African American women.

UNTHSC School of Public Health graduate student Jennifer Cole (MPH ’14, Behavioral and Community Health), one of the researchers, recently shared a first look at the study’s findings in a presentation to the Texas Public Health Association’s 2014 Annual Education Conference, winning one of two first place awards for Outstanding Research Paper Presentation.

In her discussion, Cole highlighted the cultural and social norms regarding weight, health and body image among African American women and explained how the research data was used to develop the Better Me Within program, a faith-based weight loss intervention for women in South Dallas. 

She noted that more research is needed among this population and that programs should consider linking weight to chronic health conditions as a motivational factor, while retaining cultural body satisfaction.

Is there a testosterone link to Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease affects more men than women, but no one knows why. Understanding what puts men at a two- to-three times greater risk of this progressive neurological disorder, best known for causing tremors, could shed light on this condition and one day lead to medications to treat it, said Rebecca Cunningham, PhD, Assistant Professor of… Read more »

TCU and UNT Health Science Center to create new medical school

Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas Health Science Center have entered into a memorandum of understanding to create a new MD school in Fort Worth. The school, planning to accept its first class in 2018, will be among the leading institutions in the nation in providing a team-oriented educational approach that benefits… Read more »

Building partnerships for children’s health

The UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health and Texas Prevention Institute took their third “Research Schmooze” out to the community when they recently partnered with the Cook Children’s Center for Children’s Health for a networking event. The purpose was to network on topics impacting early childhood development, mental health, obesity/healthy lifestyle, oncology and… Read more »

Art exhibit, open to public, features prairie-grass abstractions

Bluestem grass is increasingly popular in landscapes because it furthers sustainability by tolerating drought and various soil conditions. It also has artistic potential as shown in an exhibit now on view and open to the public in UNT Health Science Center’s Atrium Gallery. Works by Lee-Albert Hill, who grew up in West Texas, are on… Read more »

Check Back soon!

In the news