women at risk
With the obesity epidemic disproportionally affecting black women,
APA and the Association of Black Psychologists co-hosted a summit
to explore the intersection of race, stress and social context — as well
as the culturally sensitive interventions that can make a difference.
BY SADIE DINGFELDER • Monitor staff
About 10 years ago, APA Past-President Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD, noticed an alarming trend in her University of Florida diabetes clinic: Many black
children were developing Type 2 diabetes — a preventable,
largely obesity-related disease that she’d only previously
seen in adults. “Then I learned that 50 percent of African-
American women develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.
That’s simply unacceptable,” Johnson said at the Summit on
Obesity in African American Women and Girls, an event that
brought about 90 obesity researchers, health professionals
and community leaders to the University of the District of
Columbia on Oct. 22–23.
decreasing black women’s life expectancy and increasing their
chances of developing a host of ailments, including diabetes,
cardiovascular disease and arthritis, Johnson noted.
The data also show a curious trend, Ogden said. White and
Hispanic women with higher socioeconomic status and more
education seem somewhat protected from rising obesity rates,
but that doesn’t hold true for black women. “It’s not just the
low-income African-American population that’s experiencing
this problem,” Ogden said.
There are many possible causes for the disparity, and even
more for the overall obesity epidemic, presenters said. But one
thing is sure: To make a difference, psychologists will need
to collaborate with one another and with experts from other
disciplines. To that end, the summit organizers will create a report
and work with presenters and other attendees to develop a list of
concrete action items that all can agree to support, both of which
will be available at www.abpsi.org and www.apa.org/pi. “The
summit is a first step,” said Gwendolyn Keita, PhD, one of the
lead organizers and executive director of APA’s Public Interest
“If we are really going to solve this problem, we are going
to have to be on interdisciplinary research teams, we are
going to have to partner with community leaders and we are
going to have to find allies ... every step of the way,” Johnson said.