ABPsi-APA Summit on Obesity in African American Women and Girls

Participants discussed the social, cultural, economic and biological factors relevant to obesity in African-American women and girls

On Oct. 22 and 23, APA partnered with the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) to host the Summit on Obesity in African-American Women and Girls. The summit took place at the University of the District of Columbia, a historically black university, and the only urban land-grant university in the United States. A joint initiative conceptualized by ABPsi President Dr. Cheryl Grills and APA President Dr. Suzanne Bennett Johnson, the two associations convened an interdisciplinary gathering of academics, government agency representatives, public health professionals, community workers, representatives from religious organizations, and members of social groups to discuss the nation’s obesity epidemic. Over the course of the two days, participants discussed the social, cultural, economic and biological factors relevant to obesity in African-American females.

Summit presentations focused on a number of key addresses. Dr. Cynthia Ogden of the National Center for Health Statistics provided an epidemiological overview of the data on obesity in African-American women and girls, showing that almost 60 percent of black women are obese, after which Dr. James Jackson of the University of Michigan presented his theoretical framework detailing how the intersection between race and stress can lead to obesity. Drs. Marilyn Gaston and Gayle Porter discussed the success of their Prime Time Sister Circles, through which groups of African-American women come together and mutually support one another to lead healthier lives. Dr. Maureen Black of the University of Maryland and Dr. Charlotte Pratt from the National Institutes of Health each presented on obesity interventions, stressing the many levels of influence, including the individual, family and community, that must be taken into account in order to facilitate effective obesity prevention and treatment. The summit also featured a number of panel presentations, as well as talks on public policy and the role of the psychologist.

In addition to the excellent speakers and panelists, the summit included thought-provoking and exciting conversations interwoven through the two days. Plans are underway to develop an action agenda through which attendees can independently and cooperatively work to more effectively address the prevention, treatment and policy needs associated with weight control and management in African-American women and girls. A grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health will aid in disseminating this action agenda and associated products to both professional and community audiences.