First of its kind: Doctoral candidate launches Salisbury health study

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 20, 2023

SALISBURY — African American women in the United States face disproportionate health setbacks compared to their white counterparts, and Rowan County is no exception.

A local woman is taking aim at those disparities with a Ph.D. dissertation.

“My research has shown that here in Salisbury, 60-80% (of African American women) are considered to be overweight or obese,” said health trainer and doctoral candidate Clarissa Best. “Their Hispanic and Caucasian counterparts are less likely to be overweight or obese.”

Due to those health gaps, African American women are at substantially higher health risks.

“Think about it from that perspective,” Best said. “We are going to be more apt to get diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. The alarm needs to be sounded.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 55.9% of African American women over 20 are considered obese.

More than 57% of those women have high blood pressure or take antihypertensive medication.

Best knows all too well about how personal lifestyles and fitness impact physical health.

“I lost 125 pounds in 2000,” Best said. “I lost 70 pounds in nine months, and for the rest, I got creative.”

She was a trainer for years at the Forum in Salisbury before taking her model online.

“I had women from all over the country in our sessions,” Best said. “All of them were losing weight. I personalized clients’ diet plans, and we had weekly support group meetings.”

Best’s educational trajectory has taken off in recent years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Catawba College in 2017 and a master’s degree in communications from Walden University in 2019.

Now that she is pursuing her doctorate, she is using it to explore the healthcare crisis plaguing people who look like her. For her dissertation, she is studying the health trends of African American women in Salisbury.

For her study, she is seeking respondents from a specific target group. Best wishes to hear from any African American women aged 28-55 who have lived in Salisbury for the last five years. The respondents should be people who have not worked out regularly for at least the last two years. Best defined “regularly” as a weekly workout frequency of at least 150 minutes.

When she packages the results of her study into a comprehensive thesis, it will include a study introduction, a literature review and her methodology.

“I shared an exhaustive review of all the literature that is current that other researchers have taken to explore obesity in African American women,” Best said. “I explored the demographic of African-American women in Rowan County. That is how I know I am doing the first study of its kind in Rowan County because I discovered that no other studies like it had been conducted like it.”

Best intends to ask respondents about their health literacy and how it might play into fitness decisions and behaviors. While Best often takes how linked fitness and health can be for granted, she knows it needs to be more widely practiced. She hopes to reverse that trend.

Best is seeking input from anyone who matches her criteria. She plans to reach individuals through social media channels and African American churches. She is open to in-person interviews or telecommunications and hopes to have her first round of interviews concluded by June 15.

If you would fit Best’s study, she wants to hear from you. Her email is