Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Health Services


Jacquie Fraser


African American women have the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, thus increasing their risks for chronic diseases. Their understanding of their health status and response to it could be triggered by messages in the media, yet few researchers have examined this topic with African American women. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore how advertisement and editorial content in media contributed to perceptions African American women have about overweight and obesity. Following the theoretical foundation of the social cognitive theory, the research questions explored what messages study participants encountered and which messages prompted behavior changes. Ten African American females age 25 and older were recruited and interviewed about their understanding of overweight and obesity, chronic disease risks, and self-efficacy. Codes and themes about obesity, health risks, physical activity, eating, and body image were extracted line by line from interview transcripts. Six themes emerged: obesity as viewed by participants, perceptions of health risks, impact of media messages, perceptions of body image, encouragement from media, and steps to improve personal health. These results indicated that media messages are factors in the development of the views African American women have about being overweight or obese and motivated them to adopt health improving behaviors. Messages in the media can contribute to shifting the imbalance of overweight and obesity among African American women. Additionally, the results can inspire public health officials, health communication researchers and media professionals to develop and disseminate informative health related messages.