The role of biocultural approaches in assessing interventions for maternal weight and gestational weight gain


Public health and other researchers express growing concern for the role of maternal adiposity and gestational weight gain in driving the obesity epidemic and health disparities based on race and class. Biocultural scholars must continue to contribute to conversations on how best to address issues of population health including the developmental context of obesity, drawing from both evolutionary and social theory. I discuss a number of intervention studies designed to address gestational weight gain in low-income and minority women and consider the degree to which they address the social, political, and economic context, and developmental history of mothers. I further examine the potential for these interventions, focused on the individual behavior of mothers, to contribute to stigma based on socially defined race, class, and body shape and size, and to draw attention away from the powerful economic interests that contribute to and benefit from the obesity epidemic. I end with a discussion of the value of developmental systems theory for thinking critically about obesity and other health interventions.

Publication Title

American Journal of Human Biology