Introduction: Obesity is the second highest cause of death in the United States due to its numerous co-morbidities, and data reveal that African Americans are at greatest risk for this disease. The study explored the multiple factors that predict obesity in the African American college students.

Method: Using a hybrid of the PRECEDE-PROCEED and the vital renewal models, a mixed methods study design that included 142 male and female African American college students was conducted. A Likert-scaled survey for the quantitative phase and a focus group interview for the qualitative arm were utilized. Constructs of attitude, culture, environment, exercise, food habits, and knowledge were measured. Descriptive and multiple logistic regression analysis were used to analyze associations among variables.

Results: 40.1% of the students were obese. Exercise, gender, culture, self-perception, and age demonstrated strong association with obesity and were the most predictive factors of obesity. Two focus group sessions were conducted with males and females, respectively. Analysis results revealed 6 major themes: attitude, environment, money, culture, food habits, and stress.

Conclusion: The study concluded that multiple complex factors are responsible for persistent high rates of obesity in this population, but cultural orientation and influence appear to be the most challenging. Campus-wide culturally specific education, establishment of systems to support healthy food habits and exercise, as well as programs and research on how to deal with the cultural factors are necessary. Social change implications include policies and practices to improve health outcomes for college students, especially in the African American college campuses.

Key Take Away Points

  • Obesity is a major health crisis in America
  • Minorities, especially African Americans, bear the greatest burden
  • College students are very vulnerable
  • African American college campuses need to be targeted for intervention
  • Public policies are needed to focus on minority populations
  • Cultural dynamics need to be addressed
  • Focused interventions and more research are needed

Author Biography

Christiana Osuagwu is an Assistant Professor of Community Health and Preventive Medicine/Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) at the UTHealth Northeast in Tyler, Texas. She holds a PhD in Public Health (Health Promotion), a Master of science in Public Administration, and a Master of science in Nursing. She is credentialed as an FNP by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.


My passion for the last two decades has centered around obesity prevention. This work is excerpted from my doctoral dissertation on obesity.