Assessing the Perceptions of Black American Women Within Virginia's Faith Community Regarding Their Health and Nutrition Practices and Concerns


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Virginia Tech


Black Americans are one of the largest minority groups in the United States and were estimated to be 35 million (13%) by the 2000 U.S. Census. In that same year, the American Cancer Society reported that Black Americans are at higher risk of dying from the nations leading causes of death, such as cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, accidents, and diabetes. Whereas the five leading causes of death among Black American women include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, accidents, and kidney-related diseases as reported by the American Heart Association in 2002. Black American women, in general, are less likely to engage in health promoting activities, such as physical activity and proper dietary intake. Black American women consume diets that are high in fat and in 1998, only 15.2% of Black American women reported engaging in regular, moderate exercise. The lack of physical activity and poor nutrition has also been correlated with the occurrence of overweight and obesity among Black American women. The 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that 49.7% of Black American women are obese. The purpose of this study is to assess the perceptions of Black American women regarding their health and nutrition practices, concerns, and solutions. Qualitative (focus groups and key informant interviews) and quantitative (participatory activities) research data were collected from Black American women within the faith community of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Five focus group sessions were conducted with a total of 25 Black American church women. The participants answered focus group questions and engaged in visual participatory activities to rank top nutrition and health concerns and barriers. Key informant interviews were conducted with health professionals within the faith community. Overweight/obesity, diabetes, heart disease/stroke, high blood pressure were predominate health themes raised in the focus group sessions. Also, the women ranked overweight /obesity, diabetes, heart disease/stroke, and high blood pressure as their top health concerns. The key informant interview also confirmed that overweight/obesity, diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure) were the main health concerns among Black American women. The predominate nutrition themes were the reluctance in giving up traditional foods, not eating enough of the right foods, and the time of day when they ate. The top nutrition concerns ranked by the women were not drinking enough water, not eating enough fruit and vegetables, and eating too many sugars. Major barriers raised by the participants were not having enough time, conflicting schedules, and familial commitments prohibited proper nutrition and health activities. The key informants agreed that a major barrier for Black American women was not prioritizing their health and nutrition practices. The preferred learning method by the women was workshops or programs that were sponsored by the community using the church as a venue. Data obtained from this study will be used to develop useful nutrition education strategies to improve the dietary habits and overall status among women in this segment of the population.



Black American, Chronic Diseases, Church, Health, Nutrition, Women