By Anna Zarra Aldrich

May 12, 2022

COVID-19 infection is significantly more dangerous for certain groups including older adults, immunocompromised people, and people with obesity.

As a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measure based on a person’s weight relative to their height – increases, their chance of severe COVID-19 infection rises sharply, too.

Loneke Blackman Carr, assistant professor of nutritional sciences in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, saw an opportunity to shed light on the connections between race and obesity and the ramifications they have for health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It made everybody vulnerable, especially if your health was not in tip-top shape,” Blackman Carr says. “We have to address that on a national level for everybody, because it is a public health threat. But it is even more threatening for those communities that experience obesity disparities.”

Obesity disproportionally affects Black communities. This is largely due to structural factors, such as the increased likelihood that Black individuals will live in areas where healthy food is scarce and unhealthy fast food is abundant.

This work ties in with Blackman Carr research expertise, which focuses on health disparities in obesity treatment and prevention. In particular, Blackman Carr studies the impact for Black women, who have the highest rate of obesity of any group in the U.S. Obesity among Black women is 60%, compared to 40% of the general adult population.

“Given my area of work, it was very clear there was a connection between obesity and COVID-19,” Blackman Carr says. “So, it seemed like there was also an opportunity to shine a light on the need for obesity treatment that reaches those who need it the most.”