Date of Conferral





Public Health


Sandra W. Bever


A disproportionate number of American Indians are overweight or obese and have a higher risk of other health concerns compared to the general United States population. Researchers conducting anthropometric studies have found that American Indians have higher body mass indices and worse health than most of the general United States population. There is, however, a gap in the literature regarding American Indians' perceptions, beliefs, opinions, and attitudes of obesity and its effects on their health. The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine whether American Indians view obesity as a major health concern. Focus groups and key-informant interviews were the instruments used to obtain this information. The study sample consisted of 30 participants from a local American Indian reservation. Data was coded manually using in vivo coding and focused coding, frequency counts, and cluster coding to generate themes. Results conveyed that participants did not consider obesity as a major concern on the reservation. Issues like the presence of poverty, drugs, and alcohol, combined with the absence of community leadership, community support, and parental education were more of a concern to the study participants. Participants were also concerned with culture and identity changes. This study contributed to positive social change by identifying perceptions put forth by participants regarding obesity and its accompanying risk factors. This study contributed to the missing knowledge of culture-specific perceptions regarding obesity. Study findings about risk factors for obesity among the study population may help public health practitioners create effective public health prevention programs, which may help to slow the decline in American Indian health.