Cultural Identity Michael Franklin

BHS-414 – Cross-Cultural Health Perspectives
Module 2 SLP
Dr. Mucedola
16 August 2013
Nutrition and obesity is a growing issue within the United States as consumers are often tempted by poorly produced food which is unhealthy and comprised of foreign substances. Rates of overweight and obesity in the United States are higher in racial and ethnic minority groups, especially African American and Hispanics (Chatterjee, 2005, p. 24). More than 25% of the Americans nowadays are considered clinically obese. Unhealthy foods can lead to many health issues including obesity and sickness. Proper nutrition and dietary intake is a message in which many are seeking to spread as obesity rates are continuing to soar as well as other obesity related health issues including diabetes and heart disease. The following module will discuss the issue as it is prevalent in the African American patient group. Utilization of the PEN-3 model provides cultural implications about the group and the possible contributors to their dietary choice or refusal to change their dietary habits.
The prevalence of obesity remains high among all age and racial groups in the United States, particularly among African Americans, Hispanic and Mexican Americans, and low-income children (Hollar et al, 2010, p. 646). Within the United States, African Americans are 1.4 times as likely to be obese as non-Hispanic whites. In fact, African American women have the highest rates of being obese compared to other racial groups and four out of five of these African American women are overweight or obese (Office of Minority Health, 2013, Par. 1). The following table displays the age-adjusted percentage of individuals 20 years or older who were overweight or obese from 2007-2010:
Non-Hispanic Black
Non-Hispanic White
James (2004) performed a study on this specific patient group using the PEN-3 model to determine whether it would be a relevant model to interpret the cultural group`s identity and relationship to the health issue. Three factors of cultural identity within the model are person, extended family, and neighborhood. James (2004) discovered in his study that all three of these factors were quite prevalent in the cultural identity of his test group participants.
Extended Family
According to James (2004), the cause of obesity among Africans can be attributed to lack of support from friends and family members. Friends and relatives were not supportive of dietary changes. Family functions and organizations were focused on traditional foods which have meaning for that particular cultural. The types of foods which they cook consisted of their cultural identity. Thus, the threat of dietary change almost implied change in their very cultural. An individual`s health is determined partly by inheritance and partly by external factors. Health and longevity tend to run in families, so a person whose grandparents lived beyond the age of 80 is likely to do the same. However, this is not always the case.
According to James (2004), the participants felt no sense of urgency due to both a lack of support and a lack of understanding. Within the person factor of cultural identity, the proposition for dietary change threatened the person`s identity with his or her culture. His choice to eat different foods from his family or friends would perhaps differentiate himself and make him feel “less African American”. Additionally, their culture focuses on strong family and neighborhood functions which often involve food. Other close relationships such as religious leaders may have an impact on the cultural identity of the group and how it is impacted by the idea of changes in nutrition.
Demographics of this cultural group additionally played a key role because many types of healthy food can be costly and more expensive than alternatives. The threat of dietary change also had a threat on their finances and standard of living.
The researcher concluded that the PEN-3 model is an appropriate method for identifying the possible causes behind African American reluctance toward dietary changes. Cultural analysis can shed further light on this patient group in order to give doctors direction in how to promote dietary changes. The author suggests that African Americans would benefit from informative topics such as serving sizes and food label information. A lack of awareness or knowledge was the leading contributor to poor food choices among this patient population group as well as the cultural factors which were addressed earlier. Greater support from friends and family was identified as an additional method for promoting dietary changes among African Americans — especially those who are already at risk for a life threatening disease such as diabetes or heart failure.
Chatterjee, N., Blakely, D., & Barton, C. (2005). Perspectives on Obesity and Barriers to Control From Workers at a Community Center Serving Low-Income Hispanic Children and Families. Journal of Community Health Nursing, 22(1), 23-36.
Hollar, D., Messiah, S., Lopez-Mitnik, G., Hollar, L., Almon, M., & Agatston, A. (2010). Effect of a Two-Year Obesity Prevention Intervention on Percentile Changes in Body Mass Index and Academic Performance in Low-Income Elementary School Children. American Journal of Public Health, 100(4), 646-653.
James D. C. (2004). Ethn Health. Nov9(4):349-67. Office of Minority Health, Par. 1 Obesity and African Americans. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from

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