Food, class, and health: the role of the perceived body in the social reproduction of health.
The association between social class and cardiovascular health is complex, involving a constant interplay of factors as individuals integrate external information from the media, health care providers, and people they know with personal experience to produce health behaviors. This ethnographic study took place from February 2008 to February 2009 to assess how cardiovascular health information circulating in Kansas City influenced a sample of 55 women in the area. Participants were primarily Caucasian (n = 41) but diverse in terms of age, income, and education. Themes identified in transcripts showed women shared the same idea of an ideal body, young and thin, and associated this perception with ideas about good health, intelligence, and morality. Transcript themes corresponded to those found at health events and in the media that emphasized individual control over determinants of disease. Women's physical appearance and health behaviors corresponded to class indicators. Four categories were identified to represent women's shared beliefs and practices in relation to class, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Findings were placed within an existing body of social theory to better understand how cardiovascular health information and women's associated beliefs relate to health inequality.
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