Health Disparities, Population Health, Immigration and Health
US Latina Immigrants: Is obesity the face of food insecurity?
Maria Aileen Amador (School of Public Health (UMD) Behavioral and Community Health Master's Student)
Amador BS, Maria Aileen (UMD SPH Behavioral and Community Health), Garza PhD MPH, Mary (UMD SPH Behavioral and Community Health), Boyle MPH CPH, Meleah (UMD SPH Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health), Merlo, Leyla (UMD SPH Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health), Feldman PhD FAAHB, Robert (UMD SPH Behavioral and Community Health), Quiros-Alcala PhD MS, Lesliam (UMD SPH Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health)

Background: The “food insecurity-obesity” paradox differentially affects individuals in the US based on gender, income, and race/ethnicity. Latinos are a rapidly growing population in the US with high levels of food insecurity and higher obesity prevalence rates compared to non-Latino white adults. Research to reduce these health disparities, especially among Latino populations, is limited with most studies focused on children.

Goal: To address this gap, we examined barriers and facilitators to understand this paradox.

Objectives: Identify barriers and facilitators of the food insecurity-obesity paradox among US Latina Immigrants

Approach: As part of a larger study whose aim is to assess the health needs, lifestyle behaviors and other risk factors linked to chronic diseases among Latino immigrants in Prince Georges County, MD, we conducted a comprehensive survey and collected biospecimens. The survey captured information on demographics, cancer screening behaviors, mental health, nutrition, and food insecurity, using validated measures. Recruitment is ongoing with 123 participants recruited to date.

Results: Our study population is female (87%), obese (67%), and Central America natives (78%) with a mean age of 51 years. Preliminary analyses indicate that participants who reported: “worried about money for food” were more likely to be obese (p<0.04) and “hungry but no money for food” were less likely to graduate high school (p<0.02). Those who reported “cannot afford to eat balanced meals” were more likely to have high school degree (p<0.03), lived less time in US (p<0.02), less income (p<0.03) and be single (p<0.06). Additional analyses are underway.

Importance to public health: Understanding the “food insecurity-obesity” paradox and related factors will inform future culturally-tailored interventions to address obesity among Latina immigrants.