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African Americans, clinical nurse specialist, obesity development, weight management





Purpose/objective: The purpose of this article is to examine the connection between genes, culture, and environment in the development of obesity and its impact on the health of African Americans. This information will be utilized to facilitate the design of weight management programs for African Americans.


Rationale: Literature review of the connection between the above variables revealed a disproportionate amount of health risks associated with excess weight in African Americans. Several nonfatal consequences of obesity were noted to impact quality of life but improved significantly with small reductions in body weight. However, factors that affect weight in a culturally relevant context were seldom addressed and few intervention programs were specifically designed to treat minorities with obesity issues.


Description: This article describes the role that genetic, cultural, and environmental factors play in energy regulation. Factors that impact lifestyle changes, self-esteem, public awareness, participation, and community involvement are highlighted.


Outcome: Providing healing environments that are culturally acceptable can empower individuals to commit to goals as well as influence others who are resistant to change. Public awareness tools designed by clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) that appeal to ethnic values can facilitate cooperation and enhance successful outcomes.


Conclusion: Despite genetic susceptibility to obesity, research on the African diaspora emphasized that obesity tends to be expressed in environmental conditions that are markedly different from ancestral origin. (Kruger A, Kruger HS, MacIntyre U, et al. S Afr J Sci. 2000;96:505-513. Available at: Accessed April 11, 2004.) Black adults therefore have much to gain from weight management strategies that address the complexity of the disorder and are sensitive to cultural issues.


Implications for Nursing Practice: CNSs with advanced knowledge of the impact of obesity on health and wellness are in a unique position to utilize research-based data in the design of weight management programs for diverse populations. In practice, cultural variables that significantly impact the complex issues of weight control should be addressed in the study and treatment of obesity in black populations. By researching what is available to the community, CNSs can evaluate programs that may require adaptation to encourage greater participation