Obesity and its related co-morbidities place a huge burden on the health care system. Patients who know they are obese may better control their weight or seek medical attention. Self-recognition may be affected by race/ethnicity, but little is known about racial/ethnic differences in knowledge of obesity’s health risks.
To examine awareness of obesity and attendant health risks among US whites, Hispanics and African-Americans.
Cross-sectional self-administered survey.
Adult patients at three general medical clinics and one cardiology clinic.
Thirty-one questions regarding demographics, height and weight, and perceptions and attitudes regarding obesity and associated health risks. Multiple logistic regression was used to quantify the association between ethnicity and obesity awareness, controlling for socio-demographic confounders.
Of 1,090 patients who were offered the survey, 1,031 completed it (response rate 95%); a final sample size of 970 was obtained after exclusion for implausible BMI, mixed or Asian ethnicity. Mean age was 47 years; 64% were female, 39% were white, 39% Hispanic and 22% African-American; 48% were obese (BMI ≥30 kg/m2). Among obese subjects, whites were more likely to self-report obesity than minorities (adjusted proportions: 95% of whites vs. 84% of African-American and 86% of Hispanics, P = 0.006). Ethnic differences in obesity recognition disappeared when BMI was >35 kg/m2. African-Americans were significantly less likely than whites or Hispanics to view obesity as a health problem (77% vs. 90% vs. 88%, p < 0.001); African-Americans and Hispanics were less likely than whites to recognize the link between obesity and hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Of self-identified obese patients, 99% wanted to lose weight, but only 60% received weight loss advice from their health care provider.
African-Americans and Hispanics are significantly less likely to self report obesity and associated health risks. Educational efforts may be necessary, especially for patients with BMIs between 30 and 35.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11606-010-1623-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.