DrPH alumna and faculty member publish on obesity in Asian Americans

Dr. Shaoqing Gong, alumna of East Tennessee State University College of Public Health’s doctoral program in Epidemiology, is lead author of an article in BMC Public Health.  The article, “Ethnic group differences in obesity in Asian Americans in California, 2013–2014,” examine the disparities in obesity among Asians (i.e., Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese) living in California.

Dr. Ying Li, Associate Professor in the College’s Department of Environmental Health, is a co-author.  Former faculty members Dr. Kesheng Wang and Dr. Arsham Alamian, as well as Dr. Zhongliang Zhou of Xi’an Jiaotong University are additional co-authors.

Research at the national level in the United States has shown a significant increase in obesity prevalence, particularly over the past two decades. In California, there were more than 7 million obese adults and adolescents in 2011–2012.  Overall, the prevalence of obesity in adults has increased by approximately 32% from 2001 (19%) to 2011–2012 (25%). It has been suggested that the prevalence of and influence of obesity among subpopulations are very different among different racial and ethnic groups.  To address gaps in the literature for Asian-Americans, the authors examined the disparities in the patterns of obesity among different groups of Asian origin, including Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. They also researched the role of a number of characteristics (e.g., age, sex, family income, marital status, education level, physical activity, and fast-food consumption) in predicting obesity among Asian Americans.

A sample of adults in California (n = 47,970) including Asian American adults (n = 3810) aged 18 years or older were obtained from the 2013–2014 California Health Interview Survey (the U.S. nation’s largest state cross-sectional health survey). Body mass index was calculated using self-reported height and weight. Weight status was determined using the WHO Asian BMI cut points in 4 categories: < 18.5 kg/m2 (underweight), 18.5–22.9 kg/m2 (normal weight), 23–27.5 kg/m2 (overweight), and ≥ 27.5 kg/m2 (obese).

Overall, the prevalence of Asians was 23.3% for obesity and 40.0% for overweight. The obesity prevalence was higher in Asians who were males, aged 45–64 years old, had higher family income, were current smokers, never got married, had lower education level, had an insufficient level of physical activity, and had more frequent consumption of fast foods.  Compared to Whites, being Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese was associated with lower odds of obesity. Among Asians, compared to Chinese, being Japanese and being Filipino were associated with higher odds of obesity. These findings can help design better interventions to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in obesity, especially for Asian Americans.