Self-assessed health status and obesity vulnerability in rural Louisiana: A crosssectional analysis

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Rural communities are resource-constrained and at higher risk of obesity and obesityrelated conditions. Thus, studying self-assessed health status and underlying vulnerabilities is critical to provide insights to the program planners for effective and efficient planning of obesity prevention programs. This study aims to investigate the correlates of self-assessed health status and subsequently determine the obesity vulnerability level of residents in rural communities. Randomly sampled data were obtained from in-person community surveys in three rural Louisiana counties-East Carroll, Saint Helena, and Tensas-in June 2021. The association of social-demographic factors, grocery store choice, and exercise frequency with self-assessed health was investigated using the ordered logit model. An obesity vulnerability index was constructed using the weights obtained from the principal component analysis. The results show that gender, race, education, possession of children, exercise frequency, and grocery store choice significantly influence self-assessed health status. Around 20% of respondents fall into the most-vulnerable segment and 65% of respondents are vulnerable to obesity. The obesity vulnerability index ranged from -4.036 to 4.565, indicating a wide heterogeneity in the vulnerability level of rural residents. The findings show that the self-assessed health status of rural residents is not promising along with a high level of vulnerability to obesity. The findings from this study could serve as a reference in the policy discussion regarding an effective and efficient suite of interventions in rural communities to address obesity and promote well-being.

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