Foreign-born blacks from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean represent 4.2% and 19% of the foreign-born population in New York City (NYC). As foreign-born blacks are often grouped with African Americans, data on risk of obesity and diabetes (DM) in Africans and Caribbeans in NYC is scant. Our goal was to determine (a) if the prevalence of either obesity or DM differed in African and Caribbean immigrants; and (b) whether duration of stay in the United States (U.S.) affected odds of either outcome.

Working with the New York City Community Health Survey 2009-13 data was obtained for 363 blacks born in sub-Saharan Africa (60% male, age 43 ±24y (mean ±SD), BMI 27.1 ±7.8 kg/m2) and 2,539 blacks born in the Caribbean (39% male, age 46 ±23y, BMI 27.9 ±8.5 kg/m2). Weighted logistic regression examined odds of obesity and DM, adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic variables such as age, gender, education, income, marital status, children <18 at home, BMI and duration of stay in the U.S.

Prevalence of obesity in Africans was 16.7% and in Caribbeans was 29.7%. The prevalence of DM was 10.5% in Africans and 14.7% in Caribbeans. Africans had significantly lower odds of obesity [OR=0.60 (95% CI 0.40-0.90) P=0.01], but there was no difference in odds of DM between the two groups. Odds of obesity were higher in African [OR=2.35 (95% CI 1.16-4.78) P=0.02] and Caribbean women [OR=2.20 (95% CI 1.63-2.98) P=<.001] than their male counterparts. In both groups, duration of stay in the U.S. did not affect odds of either obesity or DM.

Overall Africans living in NYC are less obese than Caribbean blacks, but the odds of DM do not differ. This suggests that the association between BMI and DM risk differs in blacks according to region of origin. In short, combining foreign-born blacks into a single category may mask important differences in health status.


M.F. Horlyck-Romanovsky: None. A.E. Sumner: None. T. Huang: None.

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