Obesity among U.S.- and Foreign-Born Blacks by Region of Birth

Neil K. Mehta, Irma T. Elo, Nicole D. Ford, Karen R. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Introduction Large, recent migration streams from the non-Hispanic Caribbean islands and Africa have increased the share of U.S. blacks born outside of the U.S. Little is known about health patterns in these foreign-born populations. The purpose of this study is to compare obesity levels among self-identified U.S. blacks across birth regions and examine potential explanations for subgroup differences. Methods Data were from the 2000-2013 National Health Interview Surveys. Three birthplace subgroups were examined: individuals born in the U.S., Caribbean/South America, and Africa, aged 25-59 years. Data were analyzed in 2013-2014. Results Compared to U.S.-born participants, foreign-born participants had significantly lower obesity (BMI ≥30) odds. The AORs were 0.51 (Caribbean/South American-born, 95% CI=0.44, 0.58) and 0.41 (African-born, 95% CI=0.34, 0.50) with reference to U.S.-born individuals. Education, income, and cigarette smoking did not explain the favorable weight pattern of the foreign born. Among the foreign born, those residing in the U.S. for ≥15 years had 51% (95% CI=10%, 108%) higher obesity odds compared with those residing for <5 years. No statistically significant differences in obesity odds between those born in the Caribbean/South America and Africa were detected. Conclusion Foreign-born blacks generally had lower obesity levels compared to their U.S.-born counterparts, which was not explained by SES or smoking behaviors. Despite this advantage, obesity prevalence among foreign-born black women was around 30%, suggesting that obesity poses a significant health risk this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-273
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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