Food-related environmental, behavioral, and personal factors associated with body mass index among urban, low-income African-American, American Indian, and Caucasian women

Am J Health Promot. 2011 Jul-Aug;25(6):e1-e10. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.091222-QUAN-397.


Purpose: To examine racial/ethnic differences in relationships between food-related environmental, behavioral and personal factors and low-income women's weight status using Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) as a framework.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Community sites and low-income housing developments in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Subjects: Low-income African-American, American Indian, and Caucasian women ≥18 years old (n = 367).

Measures: Participants completed a survey including demographic, food security, and theoretically based questions. Heights and weights were measured to determine body mass index (BMI).

Analysis: Data were split by race/ethnicity and reduced by examining Pearson coefficients for SCT survey questions significantly correlated with BMI (p < .05). Separate environmental, behavioral, and personal multiple linear regression models for each racial/ethnic group were run to explore the proportion of variance in BMI explained by each SCT construct and which questions were significant predictors.

Results: All regression models were statistically significant, although the personal regression models predicted the greatest proportion of the variance in BMI for African-American (15% of the variance), American Indian (22% of the variance), and Caucasian women (37% of the variance).

Conclusion: Effective nutrition education and intervention efforts to control the obesity epidemic among urban, low-income women may call for a tailored approach with noted consideration of their racial/ethnic identity. Although broader changes to the food environment are necessary, the importance of addressing personal factors such as nutrition knowledge, self-efficacy, and emotional coping responses to stress, in the context of income constraints, food insecurity, and health beliefs, is also implicated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Behavior
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Feeding Behavior / ethnology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / psychology
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Poverty Areas*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Environment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population*
  • Whites / psychology
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data