African American Women, Stigma and Health Behavior Changes
As an African American woman, who has been stuck in the mental space of worrying about my weight and how I fit into social circles with my weight. While I never cared about what people thought about me, I always felt I was in the in-between girl or carried my weight well. However, I was overweight/obese during a period, and I was not happy with the image I saw in the mirror. As AA women, many feelings of pride on the curves, the bigger, the better but is bigger, the better good for your health?
In many cases no! We are sacrificing our health due to a social hyperbole of how AA women are supposed to look. I know for me, I chose my health and, in the process, if I start looking great, I took that as a benefit of living my best life for me!
What I wanted to talk about today is changing health behaviors that are harmful to our bodies to fit the social box we have been put in. Of the AA women population, 85% are considered overweight/obese. With these recent rates, we need an intervention for our health. An intervention is only as successful as its capacity to adequately respond to a problem in an environment for a specific target population and focused on the specific behavioral outcome(s). Evidence-based practice health behavior change, therefore, depends on the adequate development and implementation of interventions. The behavior changes that associate to social and self-efficacy constructs would be best for this health communication campaign because African American women have shown in past studies, they have social stigmas that restrict from changing their behavior and the motivation to continue to change their habits. For example, the African American community and medical settings, Black women are generally seen as overweight, physicians may be less likely to perceive them as such because of higher body weight is seen as normative. Another example will the attitudes and thoughts towards foods eaten and the lack of knowledge of nutrition. Recent data demonstrate lower intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and higher intake of added sugars, sodium, and calories from fat in overweight/obese black women as compared to women of other racial/ethnic groups. Implementation of this will improve health decisions, health literacy on resources that are related to physical activity, nutrition, community initiatives, and other objectives that will be in line with the Healthy People 2020 goals.
Focusing on health initiatives that are appealing and target AA women, is essential to getting women motivated about their health but also having health resources and information available to continue their journey into a healthy lifestyle.