Family Practice physician, Dr. Thaddeus Bell talks about how obesity is becoming a major issue among the African American community.
Read the full transcript »
Mary Vertucci: Welcome to ICYou on topic. Our focus today is the effect of racial disparity on African-American healthcare and joining us now in our studio is family practice physician, Dr. Thaddeus Bell who spent much of his career addressing some of these issues. Dr. Bell, thank you so much for joining us. Dr. Thaddeus Bell: It’s certainly nice to be here with you this morning, Mary. Mary Vertucci: Now, there are several health issues facing African-Americans today but the major issue among African-American women is obesity. Tell me what kind of barriers are these women facing when it comes to weight loss? Dr. Thaddeus Bell: Well, it’s a major issue and it’s not only with women but is with women and men. You may have heard just recently that while African-Americans make up 12% of the population in the United States, we make up 30% of the obese people in the United States with Hispanics coming close second. So obesity is a major issue in the United States and particularly in South Carolina. I think we rank near the top when it comes to the obesity problems of people in South Carolina and it kind of goes along with the other problems that we have been seeing that’s why we have so much diabetes because obesity and diabetes are closely related together and of course it is related to other problems such as hypertension, cancer, all kinds of cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and as I would like to remind people that there is a high prevalence of obesity in people who have joint problems particularly their hips and their knees and we are finding out that long standing obesity can cause a deterioration of those joints and as a result leading to surgery. So it is a major issue. Some of the data that just recently came out shows that we are spending about a $140 million a year on obesity issues and that has doubled within the past several years and that the average person who is obese is spending about almost $1500.00 a year more than they would have if they were not obese and those are just some of the things that we can measure. There are a lot of things that we can’t measure that the obesity issue causes. Mary Vertucci: Well, that is how intense African-American culture play a part in the body image and have an effect? Dr. Thaddeus Bell: African-American culture as it turns out has a lot to do with the obesity problem and a lot of the research shows that many young African-American women think that obesity is a part of our culture and that of course is not true. If you go on, many colleges particularly the HBCU’s you will see a significant amount of young women who are overweight and obese and of course we know that this is one of the main reasons why we are seeing so much diabetes among these young women and men. In fact there’s a new word that is coming into focus right now and that new word is called diabesity. That means that these people are obese and they will develop diabetes, so we have two words coming together and we refer to it as diabesity. So already in my practice, I am seeing a lot diabesity among young African-American women particularly but that’s not, by no means to exclude men. Mary Vertucci: Now what do you think the reason is for that? Why this group? Dr. Thaddeus Bell: Well, you know, there are a lot of reasons. Historically African-Americans have always a very, very poor diet. It probably started during slavery and has continued we as slaves generations ago were forced to eat bad food so we just took bad food and made it taste good and so that started a cascade of problems. Now, what is also contributed significantly to it has been the flourishing of the fast food restaurants because fast food restaurants are cheap and the food is good and the marketing particularly to minorities as well as others is tremendous and so this is a major contributor and we find that where there are more fast food restaurants particularly in African-American communities that the problems of obesity is high. The other thing that