Home Institution

Santa Clara University

Publication Date

Fall 2014

Program Name

Brazil: Public Health, Race, and Human Rights


Obesity in Brazil has grown rapidly within the past decade, however research is conflicting in terms of who carries the burden of this disease- the economic elite or the poor. Despite the lack of clarity towards the current distribution of obesity, many studies have come to the conclusion that in developing countries, obesity is growing more rapidly among those of lower socioeconomic status.11 Therefore, the purpose of my research study is to examine how socioeconomic status influences the dietary and exercise habits of lower and lower-middle income women who are obese. This study is relevant because it seeks to connect and expose the socioeconomic barriers such as access to healthy foods and physical activity that contribute to obesity in lower and lower-middle income women. Understanding these obstacles is an important step towards diminishing these existing disparities in order to ensure that these women are able to live a healthier lifestyle.

For my research, individual interviews were conducted throughout Salvador, Bahia, Brazil with six women who are obese and of lower or lower-middle income. The results showed that lack of access to healthy foods, the high cost of gyms, lack of security and proximity to places for physical activity within one’s neighborhood, and lack of time are all socioeconomic barriers that contribute to the obesity these women face. However, my results also indicated that other factors unrelated to socioeconomic status such as culture had a significant influence on the types of foods and the amount of physical activity that my interviewees participated in. Overall, my findings indicate that while there is a positive correlation between lower socioeconomic status and obesity among women of lower and lower-middle income, there are other factors that considerably influence obesity in their lives as well.


Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | International Public Health | Latin American Studies | Public Health | Women's Health | Women's Studies


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