My community is located in Philadelphia, PA, one of the largest U.S. cities and hometown of American democracy. It was founded in 1682 by William Penn, and its name is comprised of Greek words meaning “brotherly love” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2021). Philadelphia is the pioneer in U.S. healthcare, as the first hospital (Pennsylvania Hospital) was open here in 1751, followed by the introduction of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Medical School in 1765 (PHLCVB, 2018). The city ranks 2nd in the U.S. university population, and UPenn scores 3th in the rating of top nursing schools providing MSN degrees (U.S. News & World Report, 2020). The population of almost 1.6 million contributes to the diversity of races, ethnicities, cultures, and religious beliefs, as well as health inequity and disparities (PHLCVB, 2018). It is worth mentioning that the favorable location between New York City, NY, and Washington, DC, ensures convenient transportation, offers lucrative business opportunities, and attracts domestic and international visitors.
Windshield Survey Findings
For the purposes of this Windshield Survey, I decided to explore the area of my community where many educational facilities were concentrated with a large ethnic minority population. There were several findings supporting my hypothesis and serving as evidence that Hispanic and Black school children in my community were affected by obesity or overweight. When I began inspecting the surroundings of my community, I immediately noticed the advertisements that were strategically located in low-income areas and promoted sweet beverages, unhealthy snacks, tobacco products, and alcohol. Fischer et al. (2020) note that advertising of nutritionally poor products targeting Black and Hispanic youth creates obesity disparities and explains why cardiovascular disease is common in ethnic minorities. Unhealthy food choices, especially near early education facilities and schools, might increase the prevalence of obesity/overweight in ethnic minority children living in the community.
I also discovered that a significant number of students attending the local school were either overweight or obese. I discussed the issue with local parents and learned that their children often have a sedentary lifestyle, prefer fast food to healthy options, and have an irregular sleeping regimen. Gu et al. (2020) studied 374 Hispanic elementary-school children using accelerometers to measure cardiovascular fitness and concluded that school-based sedentary behavior is in a negative association with cardiorespiratory health and related quality of life. The photographs of the vulnerable population reveal the problem of obesity/overweight in Hispanic and African American children. Figure 1 and Figure 3 are examples of overweight school-age girls, and Figure 2 represents a boy with excess weight.
Vulnerable Population and Available Resources
My community’s demographics are characterized by health disparities and unequal rates of obesity and overweight in Hispanic and African American school children. In 2015, the prevalence of childhood obesity was 5%, while 23% of youth were overweight (Weihrauch-Bluher & Wiegand, 2018). According to Kumanyika (2019), 22% of obese children were Black and 26% were Hispanic, in contrast to 14% of their White counterparts. In North Philadelphia, where the majority of the population is Black or Hispanic, 70% of youth are overweight or obese (CDC, 2021). Social determinants of health creating the vulnerable status of ethnic minorities in Philadelphia are inadequate access to healthcare services, limited educational/employment opportunities, discrimination (minority stressors), and the lack of affordable healthy food options (FIGHT, 2020). Disproportionate rates of childhood obesity in Hispanic and African American populations might also be caused by current policies marginalizing ethnic minority and low-income families (Kumanyika, 2019). Social determinants create disparities and limit the ability of minority children to maintain an active lifestyle and healthy diet due to inadequate education and resources.
In Philadelphia, socially disadvantaged populations can rely on local community health centers providing healthy weight consultations and educating parents on proper nutritional choices for their children. Non-English speakers can also benefit from the community centers and some hospitals in the area, as they have Spanish-speaking personnel or assistants. Moreover, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative was developed in 2004 to cooperate with 24 stores to offer affordable healthy food to local families (Jernigan et al., 2018). It eventually expanded to 600 stores in the lowest-income areas of the city and helped raise awareness of healthy nutritional options. Philadelphia Urban Food and Fitness Alliance (PUFFA) is another community-based initiative that works to ensure equal access to healthy food and exercise/play areas and develops policy improvement plans.
Based on the Windshield Survey findings and relevant research data, my community in Philadelphia is considerably affected by obesity and overweight in Hispanic and African American school children. The main underlying factors contributing to excess body weight are unhealthy food advertising, the popularity of fast food among youth, a sedentary lifestyle, and an inadequate amount of sleep. Social determinants include minority discrimination and limited access to healthcare, education, and healthy nutrition. Currently, there are several community resources and agencies supporting ethnic minority children in obesity prevention and proper dietary and exercise habits promotion, such as Healthy Corner Store Initiative and PUFFA. Healthy nutrition should become affordable to ensure proper nutrition in educational settings (kindergartens, schools) and homes, while school-based sedentary behavior should be addressed via exercise opportunities and activities.
CDC. (2021). Community profile: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. CDC.
Encyclopedia Britannica. (2021). History of Philadelphia. Britannica.
FIGHT. (2020). Social determinants of health. Philadelphia Community Health Centers.
Fischer, N. M., Duffy, E. Y., & Michos, E. D. (2020). Protecting our youth: Support policy to combat health disparities fueled by targeted food advertising. Journal of the American Heart Association, 10(1).
Gu, X., Zhang, T., Chen, S., Keller, M. J., & Zhang, X. (2020). School-based sedentary behavior, physical activity, and health-related outcomes among Hispanic children in the United States: A cross-sectional study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(4).
Jernigan, J., Khan, L. K., Dooyema, C., Ottley, P., Harris, C., Dawkins-Lyn, N., Kauh, T., & Young-Hyman, D. (2018). Childhood Obesity Declines Project: Highlights of community strategies and policies. Childhood Obesity, 14(S1).
Kumanyika, S. (2019). A framework for increasing equity impact in obesity prevention. American Journal of Public Health, 109(10).
PHLCVB. (2018). Philadelphia facts and figures. Meet Philadelphia.
U.S. News & World Report. (2020). Best nursing schools: Master’s. U.S. News.
Weihrauch, S., & Wiegand, S. (2018). Risk factor and implications of childhood obesity. Metabolism, 7, 254–259.