At APHA this weekend, new book highlights the urgency of obesity interventions

Guest post by Gillian Regina Barclay and Howell Wechsler

Today on the blog, we are pleased to publish the appreciative foreword to Obesity Interventions in Underserved Communities: Evidence and Directions. This just-published book, edited by Virginia M.Brennan, Shiriki K. Kumanyika, and Ruth Enid Zambrana, will debut at the American Public Health Association annual meeting this weekend in New Orleans.

brennanThis book highlights the contributions that research can make to the national and local movements to address the burden of obesity and overweight for underserved and vulnerable communities in the United States. It features literature reviews and commentaries from leading national experts, along with 21 brief reports on innovative interventions from the field. The authors translate complex information and present it in a simplified and user-friendly format with a major emphasis on identifying lessons learned that can guide future work in this area. The focus of the work presented in this book is where it needs to be: on people and where they live, eat, learn, play, and socialize. At the same time, however, the authors do not lose sight of the historical legacy of inequity that has shaped the less-than-favorable conditions of local environments, which in turn constrain the choices available to underserved communities. It is now clearly understood that obesity is not simply a consequence of individual lifestyle choices, but rather a symptom of formidable underlying root causes that are historical, economic, social, and cultural in nature.

The research findings, intervention descriptions, and commentaries in this book address an exceptionally wide range of intervention settings, populations served, and geographical regions covered. The book describes interventions that have been developed and implemented in settings such as schools, faith-based communities, health care institutions, correctional facilities, and the military, and with diverse actors and stakeholders differentiated by race/ethnicity, culture, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. The work highlighted has been done in diverse geographic locations, including rural communities in Appalachia and Idaho, urban communities in Los Angeles and Milwaukee, and American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.

The editors of this book have carefully chosen examples that highlight how adverse health and social outcomes may be mitigated by intervention strategies that are catalytic, cross-sectoral, and collaborative, with a strong focus on policy change and community involvement. These examples show how engaging people and communities may lead to societal benefit through opportunities for healthier school meals, safe neighborhoods, community nutrition education at mobile markets, local food systems that provide fresh, affordable, and accessible food, and health promotion through faith-based organizations.

The work highlighted in this book demonstrates the emergence of a social movement focused on reducing historically intractable racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes such as obesity. By pulling together in one volume the most up-to-date scientific information on efforts to address obesity in underserved and vulnerable communities, this book can play a critical role in guiding future advances of this social movement. Let us indeed hope that the insights gleaned from Obesity Interventions in Underserved Communities will contribute to the needed social change and, thereby, increase the likelihood that future generations will be healthier generations.

Gillian Regina Barclay, DDS, MPH, DrPH, is Vice President of the Aetna Foundation, where she leads the development, execution, and evaluation of the foundation’s national and international grant programs. Howell Wechsler, EdD, MPH, is Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation in response to the rapid increase in childhood obesity rates over the last three decades.

APHA logoNovember 15–19
American Public Health Association
New Orleans, LA
Annual meeting information

Visit booth 1613 at APHA to browse books and journals published by the JHU Press, including Obesity Interventions in Underserved Communities: Evidence and Directionsedited by Virginia M.Brennan, Shiriki K. Kumanyika, and Ruth Enid Zambrana.  Join the editors for a Book Launch Celebration on Monday, November 17th, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. in Room 224 (at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, MCC). Follow the APHA on Facebook and Twitter.