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HHS Awards Grant to Fight Obesity Among African Americans

African American organizations to share $1.2 million

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Dateline: April 2005

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has announced the award of $1.2 million in grants to improve efforts to reduce obesity among African Americans through a new partnership with national African American organizations.

"The obesity epidemic is one of the major health challenges facing our nation, and African American communities are highly affected by this disease and its health consequences," Secretary Leavitt said in a press release. "The initiative we are announcing today will mobilize three of the nation's premier academic and civic organizations to join us in a new partnership to mount critical prevention efforts in the African American community."

The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), Silver Spring, Md., will work with the National Urban League, New York, N.Y., and the National Council of Negro Women, Washington, D.C. Initiatives planned by these organizations include prevention, education, public awareness, and outreach activities intended to bring about a greater understanding of the impact of obesity on other conditions.

An estimated 129.6 million Americans, or 64 percent, are overweight or obese. Obesity and overweight have been shown to increase the risk of developing serious and often disabling medical conditions. Adult African American women had age-adjusted obesity rates of 48.8 percent, compared to 30.7 percent for adult white women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the period 1999-2002. African American girls and boys also had higher rates of overweight than white children in the same age groups.

"Obesity is a risk factor for many diseases which disproportionately impact minority populations, including heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and stroke," said Dr. Garth Graham, HHS deputy assistant secretary for minority health. "Because these problems affect multiple groups, we will also be announcing a second phase of the initiative in the near future, which will focus on reducing obesity among Hispanic populations."

In implementing the new projects targeting African Americans, NAFEO will work with five of its member institutions to improve health habits among college-age youth: Talladega (Ala.) University; Alcorn (Miss.) State University; Lincoln (Pa.) University; South Carolina State University, Orangeburg; and Wiley (Texas) College.

The National Council of Negro Women will conduct a research-based public education campaign to educate young and mid-life women (ages 35-59) about healthy aging and ways to improve their overall health. The Council will conduct focus groups among women in Los Angeles, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Ill.; New Orleans, La.; and Houston, Texas, as it develops new consumer education materials.

The National Urban League will pilot-test an Urban Health and Fitness Campaign focused on physical activity, nutrition and prevention of diseases such as diabetes. Working through selected local affiliates, the project aims to develop comprehensive community action plans, influence school-based curricula and health/fitness activities, and provide technical assistance to meet community needs.

Source: Dept. of Health and Human Resources

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