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Evidence That Community-Based Obesity Prevention Can Work

Obesity Prevalence in Intervention Communities vs Matched ControlsA new study in the American Journal of Public Health provides encouraging evidence that community-based obesity prevention can work in disadvantaged black communities to reduce the prevalence of obesity. Youlian Liao and colleagues from the CDC analyzed changes in the prevalence of obesity in communities targeted for the REACH US program. Liao told

In 2009, the prevalence of obesity was 12.3 percentage points higher among Blacks in REACH US communities than that among non-Hispanic Whites in the nation. We found a statistically significant reduction in age-standardized prevalence of obesity in the REACH US communities from 2009 through 2012, and the disparity reduced to 10.5 percentage points by 2012. No significant change in obesity prevalence was found among non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black populations nationally, or in the 10 states where these REACH US communities were located.

Of course, there are caveats. This careful analysis was based upon self-reported values for BMI in both the intervention and control groups. It is possible that with so much attention to health and obesity, people in the intervention communities learned to fudge a little more when reporting height and weight. Other confounding factors are possible as well.

But none of those cautions should take away from the importance of the outcomes here. This study appears to be a well-conceived effort to measure outcomes and evaluate them against meaningful reference points.

Perhaps the combined effect of multiple strategies for healthy eating and active living, which engaged community leaders, can have a significant impact. The reductions in disparate rates of obesity in these black communities is impressive.

Click here to read the study and here to read an interview with the Liao.

Farmers Market, photograph by Natalie Maynor / flickr

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June 24, 2016

2 Responses to “Evidence That Community-Based Obesity Prevention Can Work”

  1. June 24, 2016 at 11:34 am, Allen Browne said:

    But the rates of childhood obesity in the non-Black neighborhoods are unacceptable. All children need effective prevention and children with obesity need effective treatment. Perhaps a first step but we need to “keep our eye on the ball”.

    • June 24, 2016 at 2:53 pm, Ted said:

      I agree, Allen.