not a one-sizefits-all solution Even within the context of a country with an obesity epidemic, the Bread of Healing clinic stands out.
“This is much higher than the general public and much higher than the African-American community in other areas,” says Dr. Robert Topp, the College of Nursing’s associate dean for research. “So they’ve got a serious problem.” Topp’s first reaction? Let’s get these patients dieting and exercising. Dr. Angelique Harris Assistant Professor, Social and Cultural Sciences
But Dr. Angelique Harris, an assistant professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences, knew it wasn’t that simple. Based on her knowledge of cultural responses to health issues, Harris advised Topp that this group would be more likely to identify conditions related to obesity, such as diabetes or hypertension, as the problem — rather than obesity itself. A series of focus groups proved her correct. “For this population, they have so much going on that obesity is the least of their concerns,” says Harris. “Also, there’s nothing telling them being obese is bad.” Based on feedback from the focus groups, community health workers are devising new approaches to help patients make healthier choices. The project — Promoting Healthy Body Weight among African-American Women through a Community Participatory Model — is funded by a two-year $200,000 grant from the Healthy Wisconsin Partnership Project. The next step is to form support groups, conduct motivational interviewing and put together a list of culturally sensitive recipes. “We’re not telling people they have to be thin,” says Kimberly Salas Harris, who is directing the project for the College of Nursing. “It’s trying to get them to make better decisions about their life.”
30+ The Body Mass Index number that defines obesity.
Dr. Robert Topp Associate Dean for Research, Nursing
Among African-American female patients at the clinic, which is housed in Milwaukee’s Cross Lutheran Church and staffed by Marquette nursing students, 50 percent of people are obese. Another 30 percent are overweight.