Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Mary Lou Gutierrez


African Americans are disproportionately affected by obesity. Public health practitioners have an incomplete understanding of the social-environmental risk factors and how they affect obesity. The purpose of this quantitative, cross-sectional study was to explore whether internet use and perceived social support predicted obesity among African American young adults. The social cognitive theory guided this study. Secondary data were analyzed from the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. The sample consisted of 6,765 African American young adults age 18 to 34 and represented the U.S. population using weighted estimates. A Bonferroni correction was performed to reduce Type I error due to multiple comparisons; the criteria for significance was p < .01. Controlling for gender, education, and employment status, a binary logistic regression analysis indicated that internet use inversely predicted obesity (OR = .862); however, when internet use was analyzed to include perceived social support in the full multivariate model, it directly predicted obesity (OR = 4.69). In addition, the analysis indicated that perceived social support predicted obesity (OR = 3.934), yet when included in the full multivariate model, the likelihood of obesity decreased (OR = 2.765). The findings may be used to develop a media campaign emphasizing social-environmental risk factors to improve obesity-related health outcomes, such as heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. These findings may lead to positive social change through the development and pilot of weight-loss interventions that incorporate social support while using the internet as a platform to sustain accountability for maintaining a healthy weight.