A recent UCR study has observed that a larger number of adults from racial minorities experience health conditions such as diabetes and obesity. The study, which was published in the journal Obesity, used data collected by the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), and came to the conclusion that factors such as the higher likelihood of minorities to have lower levels of education and greater poverty contributed to the results. It was led by Andrew Subica, an assistant professor at UCR, as well as his colleagues: Bruce Link Ph.D., Neha Agarwal Ph.D. and Greer Sullivan M.D.
While factors such as poverty and lower education in minorities can explain these differentials, these trends continue in minorities who are wealthier than average. Even in control examples, where a white and nonwhite minority are at equal economic status, on average the health of the minority is worse. Subica believes that racial discrimination may play a part in this. “It seems a bit odd at first,” he explained, “to say that racial discrimination leads to poorer health, but you have to consider the amount of pressure that comes along with being a marginalized minority. If being a minority, in a frankly white-favoring world, leads to more stress, that stress can lead to higher blood pressure, a higher rate of depression, a lower likelihood to exercise and many more health problems.”
The findings of this study have the potential to impact UCR’s student population, which consists of 88 percent non-white students, since the study has found that these obesity trends start extremely early, as soon as 3 or 4 years old, and tend to continue throughout an individual’s life. The university already puts effort into ensuring that all its students have healthy and nutritious food options, such as the dining halls and R’Pantry; however, according to Subica, this may not be a complete solution to the problem. “Even when a student is on campus, where they come from still has the potential to affect their diet,” he began. “When students come from low-income areas, not only are they possibly ignorant to better diet choices they could be making, but they also do not have as many outside resources, such as money to buy healthier food options, as wealthier students.”
In regards to possible solutions to the problem, Subica believes that the main goal should be raising awareness and support for these marginalized groups, especially Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and multiracial students who, according to Subica, do not get as much attention diverted to their issues to the degree that other, larger minorities do. A possible solution that Subica proposes is a program that celebrates the diversity that UCR prides itself in. “College is a great opportunity for an individual to gain exposure to things they aren’t family with,” Subica stated. “Especially at UCR, where there is such as mix of economic and ethnic backgrounds. If we (the students and faculty of UCR) apply this diversity to the current problem, we could form a program that encourages this exposure and mixing of cultures. If students can educate and expose each other to their health choices, then they can learn from each other and apply it to their own lives.”
Adrian Salcido, a second-year economics major, gave his insight on the situation from his own personal experiences as a Mexican-American. “I think that diet has a lot to do with culture,” he began. “Being Mexican, the foods that I ate daily like rice, tortillas and beans were all cheap, and they also weren’t prepared in a very healthy way. So I believe that the main solution to these health problems, is educating people on more healthy choices they can make that are also affordable.”
The remaining faculty members involved in the study were contacted, but did not respond before the time of print.