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Salud y Bienestar: Study Finds Connection Between Self-Perception of Weight Gain and Race/Ethnicity

Within the Hispanic community, weight perception is very much influenced by cultural factors. For example, someone who is thinner is considered ‘sickly’ and is encouraged to eat more. On the other hand, another person who is heavier is thought of as being the picture of good health, when in fact, they could be at an increased risk for chronic conditions because of their weight, such as cardiovascular disease, degenerative joint diseases, and diabetes.

A recent weight gain study at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX has shed more light on this issue, finding that young women commonly fail to recognize short-term weight increases by as much as 11 pounds. This lack of awareness could put them at risk for obesity-related conditions. What was even more interesting is that the race and ethnicity can influence the self-perception of weight gain:

“We were surprised to find that race and ethnicity are determinants of accurate recognition of weight gain, predictors that have never before been reported,” said lead author Dr. Mahbubur Rahman, assistant professor in the UTMB department of obstetrics and gynecology.

Dr. Rahman also said that ‘further studies using detailed measures that include cultural, psychological and perceptual aspects of weight change in women are needed to explore this relationship.’

Given the relationship between a woman’s self-perception of weight gain at a younger age and her race or ethnicity, the need for an intergenerational approach toward preventive practices and programs becomes even more critical as women are at high risk for obesity-related conditions, such as heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women regardless of race or ethnicity, and even age.

Based on extensive research which examined the role of cultural factors, among others, as determinants of pre-diabetes and diabetes within the Hispanic community, NHCOA’ developed its signature diabetes education program, Salud y Bienestar (Health and Well-Being).

Salud y Bienestar is a public health intervention created to reduce diabetes health disparities among U.S. Hispanics by helping to delay the onset of the disease among those at high risk. The program also aims to prevent the development of diabetes complications, as well as improve the quality of care.

Even though the program was developed with Latino seniors as the main target, there has been a ripple effect in Hispanic families because any collective activity in Latino multigenerational households usually revolves around food. Therefore, when a Salud y Bienestar participant begins to make healthier eating choices there will usually be a direct impact on their children and grandchildren’s eating habits as well.

We have seen how this program has tremendously changed the lives of Hispanic older adults across the country. Therefore, we are continuing to expand this important program so that more Latino seniors can benefit from a healthier lifestyle in their golden years.

NHCOA recently presented an overview and evaluation of Salud y Bienestar during a Capitol Hill briefing with members of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus last November in commemoration of National Diabetes Month.

Click here to read NHCOA’s 2011 National Diabetes Month statement.

Salud y Bienestar, NHCOA’s signature national diabetes education program, was created in 2005 with the support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The program’s expansion is currently supported by the Walmart Foundation.