The Experiences of Obese African-American Women (AAW) and Their Utilization of Preventive Healthcare Services

Friday, 3 August 2012: 10:55 AM

Winsome Stephenson, RN, PhD
Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions, Georgia State University, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Margaret Moloney, RN, PhD, ANP
Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA

Learning Objective 1: state reasons obese AAW delay seeking preventive healthcare for breast and gynecological cancers, given their high rates of obesity and deaths from these cancers.

Learning Objective 2: describe strategies that may foster obese AAW seeking timely preventive healthcare that will detect breast and gynecological cancers in the early and treatable stages.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the healthcare experiences of obese African American women and their utilization of preventive healthcare services.

 Methods: Interpretive phenomenology was used to describe and interpret the healthcare experiences of 15 obese AAW, living in communities in Georgia. A purposive sampling was employed in the study. The participants ranged in age from 23 to 62 with BMIs ranging from 35-55. The majority of the sample (83%) had adequate health insurance. This was a well educated sample with 87% having college degrees or some college education. Individual, audio-taped interviews were used to collect data. Data were analyzed using interpretive phenomenological methods, with analysis and collection occurring concurrently. Data were analyzed as a whole then line by line for themes across transcripts.

Results: Two patterns and five major themes were identified. Patterns were: They‘re not listening and Good or bad, it‘s my decision. Themes were: Attributing all problems to weight; They say lose weight but give us no tools; Stigmatization; Cancel my appointment please: I won‘t be back, and Empowerment. The women recalled a plethora of negative encounters with providers that they termed demeaning, and "nastiness for no reason." Many women reacted by delaying or avoiding healthcare, some not returning for preventive health screens for several years.

 Conclusion: The significant association between obesity and mortality from cervical and breast cancers necessitates timely preventive screens by obese women. The results of this study can help to inform practice, education, and research. Recommendations for all three areas were delineated in this study.