Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Bernice R. Kennedy


The rural African American population has a high incidence of severe psychosocial problems and a skewed perception of obesity, despite obesity's extremely high prevalence rate in this population. Despite the acknowledgements of these problems, there is a gap in literature relative to the effective treatments for obese African Americans diagnosed with depression. This study measured correlations between obesity and depression, binge eating, and food culture amongst African American women residing in Jefferson County, MS. The health belief model was used to guide an assessment of beliefs, perceptions, susceptibility, cues to action, and self-efficacy. A cross-sectional design was used based on the sampling method and the associated sites along with distinctive design factors, including: no time factor, existing differences, and no random allocation. The Beck depressive inventory and the Bernice Roberts Kennedy cultural inventory for minority groups were the tools used to measure obesity and depression. Linear regression determined that there was an association between depression and obesity. Analyzation of study findings indicated that the participants responded to culturally sensitive questions surrounding prayer, religious involvement, and regular church attendance, which are common coping responses and mechanisms for depressed African American women. These results show a need to encourage health practitioners and researchers to create and implement individualized health promotion campaigns and interventions that fit with community and cultural realities, which could effectively address the obesity and poor health epidemic among rural African American women.