Consideration of Factors Influencing Weight Outcomes among U.S. Racial-Ethnic Minority Populations in the Social Work Literature
Originally Published In
Social Work in Public Health
Objective: This study explores the social work profession’s empirical contribution to addressing factors influencing overweight and obesity outcomes among racial-ethnic minority populations in the United States. The high prevalence of obesity in U.S. adults and children, particularly in racial/ethnic minority populations, continues to be an important public health issue. The African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN) Expanded Obesity Research Paradigm was used to assess the studies. Constructs in this paradigm identify conceptual and multilevel influences on obesity offering social work practitioners a comprehensive understanding of obesity-related factors in populations of color: cultural and psychosocial processes, historical and social contexts, and physical and economic environments. Methods: A systematic search of obesity-related, social work studies providing data for U.S. racial/ethnic minority populations was conducted in March through July 2013 with updated searches in February 2016 and July 2017. Findings: Identified studies were mostly cross-sectional, offering only a snapshot of factors associated with obesity among racial-ethnic minority populations. Articles addressing factors contributing to overweight/obesity were more likely to discuss cultural and psychosocial features and provided limited information about health behaviors embedded in the daily lives of racial-ethnic groups affecting obesity. Future Directions: Given that social workers’ interactions with clients occur in a variety of social services settings, they are in a unique position to assist with developing strategies for facilitating obesity prevention integrating conceptual features outlined by the AACORN paradigm. Practice and policy implications are discussed for social work professionals employed in community settings.