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Topics > Reducing Health Disparities Initiative > What We Are Doing > Obesity: An Epidemic, A Health Disparity

Obesity: An Epidemic, A Health Disparity

Sally McFalone, Diane Dooley and Annabelle Cadiz (from left to right)

This month's health disparity topic is obesity. African Americans and Latinos living in Contra Costa County are most at risk for being extremely overweight or obese compared to the county population as a whole. (See our Community Health Indicators for Selected Cities and Places in Contra Costa available online at by clicking on Health Data.)

Obesity is a serious health problem for both adults and children. Childhood obesity is on the rise, and nearly half the children who are overweight remain overweight as adults, said Dr. Diane Dooley, a Contra Costa Health Plan pediatrician who practices at the Concord Health Center and also chairs the pediatrics department at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (CCRMC).

"Obesity is an epidemic among adults and children. In Contra Costa, more than 40% of the children who had well checks at our clinics were overweight or at risk of being overweight," Dr. Dooley said.

Before this epidemic was recognized, there wasn't a consistent system of identifying overweight children. Physicians were unsure how to sensitively discuss this problem with families and assist them in adopting healthier lifestyles. Nutritionist Annabelle Cadiz with Public Health's Child Health and Disability Prevention Program developed an innovative training for calculating body mass index (BMI) for children and shared it with nurses and doctors throughout our health system. An interdivisional pediatric obesity committee developed a tool kit, "Have Fun and Be Healthy."

Using a $50,000 grant from the California Healthcare Foundation, Annabelle, Dr. Dooley and Sally McFalone, a Public Health Program Specialist with Public Health Clinic Services, trained more than 300 doctors, nurses and other health care staff last year on how to use the tool kit.

To complement clinical interventions, other strategies are needed as part of a comphrehensive approach to today's obesity epidemic. Our Bay Point Family Health Center has engaged the community with its Promotoras program, which enlists Spanish community members to provide classes in Spanish about healthy eating, reducing TV time, and other topics. Public Health's Community Wellness & Prevention Program (CW&PP) is focusing its intervention efforts on ensuring that county residents have knowledge about and access to healthy foods and physical activity. Examples of CW&PP's efforts include making streets safer so kids can exercise, providing fresh produce to residents in Richmond, and making sure that vending machines on county premises have healthy choices. Partnerships with community-based agencies support local obesity prevention efforts.

The Family and Maternal and Child Health Program's TeenAge Program work with middle school students to promote healthy eating in their schools. And the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program educates families about healthy eating and provides support to low-income women to breastfeed their infants.

Send feedback about this story to Kate Fowlie at

Content provided by the Reducing Health Disparities Initiative.

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