deaths annually can be attributed to obesity and being overweight. Researchers speculate that increased production of insulin and estrogen stimulates the growth of cancer cells. In women, obesity is related to elevated risk of uterine, breast, cervical, ovarian, renal cell, and endometrial cancers; in men, prostate cancer. The high incidence and virulence of obesity-related diseases are exacerbated by lack of preventive care and appropriate health screenings. Smith explains: “Blacks tend to visit the doctor later, and by then these illnesses are less treatable and less curable, and the body is weakened. That’s why whether it’s talking to your physician or going to a free clinic, we must become more proactive about our own health.”
An unspoken consequence of obesity is the double jeopardy of weight discrimination within the healthcare industry. Doctors’ subjective opinions and prejudices can negatively impact medical treatment, care, and outcome. A physician may, for example, withhold treatment or a procedure based on latent feelings that the obese patient is lazy or lacks discipline, self-respect, or willpower.
A PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTH
Is it possible to halt the upward trend of obesity? Healthcare experts agree that education and moderation are keys to incorporating healthy habits into daily living. Despite the promises of diet-pill pushers and the growing popularity of bariatric and gastric bypass surgeries, the surest solution to weight loss remains diet and lifestyle changes. Lisa Jubilee, nutritionist and cofounder of Living Proof, a nutrition and fitness center in New York City, requires clients to keep
a food journal and formulates eating plans tailor-made for the lifestyle and needs of the individual. She suggests walking 10 blocks a day if squeezing in 30 minutes of daily exercise seems like too much at first. And eating whole foods–whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fresh lean meat and fish–as much as possible.
For employers looking to lower the number of employee health insurance claims, Ã˜stbye recommends the following:
Stocking healthy food in cafeterias and snack machines
Creating walking trails around the workplace
Having annual health and lifestyle checkups and offering follow-up programs for those who are obese
Working to make the environment safer for everyone and training all workers to recognize situations likely to lead to injury
For people like Ferrell, Jubilee suggests different ways to prepare old favorites, such as baking instead of frying foods, and minimizing the amount of batter used to make treats such as biscuits. Small steps are necessary to make the big changes that will sustain weight loss. Ultimately, African Americans have the means and opportunity to overcome the tide of obesity and being overweight by setting new, grander examples of healthy living for this generation and the next.
Rates of workers’ compensation claims, lost days, and claims costs
Per 100 full-time employees *for referrals to outside providers Source: obesity and workers’ compensation: results from the duke health and safety surveillance system
|Variables||Claims||Lost Days||Medical Claims Costs*|