Racism, Rurality And Childhood Obesity

December 8, 2021

The intersection of racism, rurality and childhood obesity is the focus of a research project being led in part by Dr. Joy Bradley, assistant professor of community medicine and population health at the College of Community Health Sciences.

The research team also includes Dr. Joyce Nickelson, associate professor of Health Sciences at the College of Human Environmental Sciences, and Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation, which works to strengthen Alabama’s 12 poorest counties known collectively as the Black Belt.

The project seeks to identify ways that racism, rurality and childhood obesity impact the lived experience of children in Wilcox County Head Start programs. More than 20% of the population of the rural Alabama county lives in persistent poverty, and the county ranks among the state’s least healthy. Residents have poor access to grocery stores and physical activity and suffer from high rates of obesity.

A Community Advisory Board will be created as part of the project, comprised of current and past Head Start families, and community members will be involved in all phases of the work. Information will be gathered from focus groups, interviews and county-level demographic data, and the lived experiences of four to five Head Start families will be highlighted.

The goal of the study is to raise awareness of the intersection of racism, rurality and childhood obesity, build coalitions and develop policies to modify structural causes of childhood obesity.