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Social context explains race disparities in obesity among women
  1. Sara N Bleich1,2,
  2. Roland J Thorpe Jr1,2,
  3. Hamidah Sharif-Harris2,3,
  4. Ruth Fesahazion1,2,
  5. Thomas A LaVeist1,2
  1. 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  3. 3Health Education Studies, Health Education Studies Program, Coppin State University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Sara N Bleich, Department of Health Policy and Management, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 624 N. Broadway, Room 451, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; sbleich{at}


Background National data do not account for race differences in health risks resulting from racial segregation or the correlation between race and socioeconomic status. Therefore, these data may inaccurately attribute differences in obesity to race rather than differing social context. The goal of this study was to investigate whether race disparities in obesity among women persist in a community of black people and white people living in the same social context with similar income.

Methods Race disparities in obesity were examined among black women and white women living in the same social context with similar income, using the data from the Exploring Health Disparities in Integrated Communities-SWB (EHDIC-SWB) study, and these estimates were compared to national data (National Health Interview Survey) to determine if race disparities in obesity were attenuated among women in EHDIC-SWB. Obesity was based on participants' self-reported height and weight. Logistic regression was used to examine the association between race and obesity.

Results In the national sample, black women exhibited greater odds of being obese (OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.71 to 2.32) than white women after controlling for covariates. In the EHDIC-SWB sample, black women had similar odds of being obese (OR 1.25, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.75) as compared to white women, after adjusting for covariates.

Conclusions There are no race disparities in obesity among poor, urban women sharing the same social context. Developing policies that focus on modifying social aspects of the environment may reduce disparities in obesity among low-income women living in urban communities.

  • Obesity EPI
  • women CG

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  • Funding This research was supported by grant# P60MD000214-01 from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and a grant from Pfizer, Inc. Dr Bleich was additionally supported by a K01 Mentored Career Development Award (1K01HL096409-01) from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the Health Disparities Loan Repayment Program (L60 MD003184-01).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.