The Obesity Epidemic and its Effect on Detroit Residents

    We currently live in a country where everything is revolved around time, money, and convenience. The common trend observed appears that the more we progress as a society, we tend to go backwards in a sense. As people spend more time pursuing quality employment and wealth, the quality of the food we consume and the amount of exercise partake in take a backseat in our daily lives. Obesity rates in America has skyrocketed in the past ten years, with the National Institute of Health reporting that more than 2 in every 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese, and more than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese (1).  Although self-explanatory, overweight and obese individuals as defined by the WHO organization are individuals who have abnormal or excessive fat accumulations in their bodies that may impair health, with obesity defining individuals with more severe fat accumulations (2). Adults are classified overweight or obese by their body mass index, which is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters. A BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight, a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obese (2). While the BMI is a useful tool, it is not always accurate or reliable, especially when using it on kids.

            With weight being a hot topic in health centers all over the country because of its epidemic proportions, how does the city of Detroit stack up?  Here are some frightening statistics regarding weight in adults as well as children.


• Obesity in Michigan has risen 21.8% among adults from 2001 to 2008.

• Michigan had the 8th highest prevalence rate of obesity in the United States in 2008.

• In 2008, 65.3% of Michigan adults were either overweight or obese; 35.2% were overweight and an additional 30.1% were obese.

• Blacks had a significantly higher obesity rate (39.8%) than whites (28.8%).

• Obese adults had a higher prevalence of arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack, diabetes and inadequate sleep compared with non-obese adults.

• Obese adults also reported the highest prevalence of poor life satisfaction, poor general health, poor physical health, poor mental health and activity limitations compared with non-obese adults.


• In 2007, 28.9% of Michigan youth, grades 9 through 12, were either overweight or obese (16.5%) were overweight and an additional 12.4% were obese.

• Black youth had a higher obesity rate (18.5%) compared with white youth (11.2%).

Detroit had the highest prevalence (prevalence is the proportion of individuals in a population who have the condition at a point in time or during a given time period divided by the total population) of obesity at 38.1%, trailing behind Sanilac County (39.1%) by only one percent. Blacks in particular have staggering statistics, showing the rise of overweight and obesity within their community - In Michigan in 2008, blacks had a significantly higher prevalence of obesity (39.8%) than whites (28.8%).  In 2008, 42.2% of black females were obese in Michigan - the highest percent of any race/sex group.

(*Statistics recorded and compiled by Michigan Department of Community Health, 2009).

            Being overweight or obese has many more implications than just type 2 diabetes and low self-esteem (although these two alone should inspire you to make a change!). Overweight and/or obese individuals also have more problems concerning asthma, angina, stroke, and diabetes. There is also trouble in areas you would not expect, such as inadequate sleep and poor mental health.

            There are a lot of things an individual can do in order to combat extra weight and obesity. It is imperative that we are pursuant to healthy lifestyles and depolarize contemporary sedentary norms. Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in a diet and limiting the amount of total fats and sugars is a good place to start. A nutritional diet in combination with about 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week will help you lose weight and you will feel better in many aspects of your life. Of course that is easier said than done, especially when taking into consideration that more than half of all children living in Detroit live in poverty, and are living within one of the nation’s greatest food deserts. The Food Disparities projects of MedEq hopes to make a local change within the Detroit community to help inner city residents be mindful in regards of their nutritional intake and to help decrease/eliminate the food disparities Detroit residents face in their everyday lives in order to make a healthier and happier city!


Overweight and Obesity Statistics (n.d.). In National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved November 10, 2015, from

Obesity and Overweight (n.d.). In World Health Organization. Retrieved November 10, 2015, from

BE Anderson, SK Lyon-Callo, SE Monje, MD Boivin, G Imes. Overweight and Obesity in Michigan: Surveillance Report Series 2009. Lansing, MI: Michigan Department of Community Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, Chronic Disease Epidemiology Section.