The Healthy Campus 2010 national public health campaign mobilized promising scientific initiatives seeking to both document and improve the health status of U.S. college students 1. A key epidemiological finding that emerged indicated that national trends in ethnic minority health disparities in obesity [i.e. a body mass index (BMI) >30.0 kg/m2] are mirrored in the college student population 2. As such, Black female college students evidence an excess point prevalence of overweight (i.e. a BMI between 25.0-29.9 kg/m2) and obesity relative to their White female peers 2;recent data also suggests that young women attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) may be at an increased risk 3. However, it remains unclear as to whether these differences stem from entering college at higher body weights and/or result from gaining greater amounts of weight in the initial transition year. What is more, the potentially modifiable underpinnings of this likely enhanced vulnerability have yet to be determined. The proposed study will employ a two-phase, multi-method design to prospectively evaluate the relative contributions of dimensions of body image and various forms of ethnocultural stress in predicting longitudinal changes in both obesigenic risk (e.g., weight gain, sedentary behaviors) and protection (e.g., increased fruit and vegetable consumption) in the first year of college among Black and White female students. A related aim is to determine whether the risk profiles for weight gain and other body composition changes are independent of ethnicity and of the racial/ethnic composition of the college attended. The first phase of the project will continue the psychometric evaluation of two contemporary measures of ethnocultural stress in large samples of Black female college students attending a predominantly White institution (PWI) or one of two HBCUs. The second phase will test the predictive validity of these newer psychosocial instruments along with other established measures of body image evaluation in a multi-site prospective cohort study of body composition changes during this developmental shift. Robust statistical techniques appropriate for assessing latent change in longitudinal designs will be performed. Results are expected to provide critical insights necessary for the future development of a culturally-relevant, health promotion program for entering first-year women. This proposal extends the work of the Initiative Among Minorities for Building Opportunities During the College Years for Women's Improved Self-Empowerment Research Collaborative (I AM BODY WISE). This interdisciplinary research coalition brings together female faculty of color from a large PWI (a state university) and from 2 mid-size state-funded HBCUs in central and south central North Carolina. The long-term objective of I AM BODY WISE is to develop a culturally-sensitive healthy weight-positive body image promotion program for entering Black first-year women that considers both the shared and unique biopsychosocio-cultural determinants of body composition changes in the early adjustment to college life.

Public Health Relevance

More work is needed in order to achieve a primary objective of the Healthy Campus 2010 college health promotion roadmap with respect to reducing disparities in obesity and its behavioral risk factors among vulnerable subgroups of the college student population1. Aligned with this effort, the current study aims to better clarify the multiple determinants of unhealthy weight gain in the early transition to college life among Black and White female first-year students attending a predominantly white institution (PWI) and Black female first-year students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) in central and south central North Carolina. Findings will be instrumental in the subsequent development of a culturally-sensitive healthy weight-positive body image promotion program for entering first-year women

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) (R15)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-HDM-F (52))
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Everhart, James
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University of North Carolina Charlotte
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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