Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Childhood obesity linked to neighborhood social and economic status, study finds

Date:
June 14, 2010
Source:
Group Health Research Institute
Summary:
Children in King County, Washington, are more likely to be obese if they live in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods, according to research from Group Health Research Institute, Seattle Children's Research Institute, and the University of Washington (UW) that Social Science & Medicine e-published before printing. The team collected "de-identified" electronic medical record information on 8,616 children age 6-18 at Group Health Cooperative -- and correlated these data with the socio-economic characteristics of Seattle-area census tracts.

Children in King County, Washington, are more likely to be obese if they live in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods. This is according to a team of researchers at Seattle Children's Research Institute, the University of Washington (UW), and Group Health Research Institute.

Social Science & Medicine e-published the research this week in advance of printing it.

The researchers found obesity most common in children living in neighborhoods with the least-educated females, most single-parent households, lowest median household income, highest proportion of non-white residents, and fewest homes owned. Together, these five socioeconomic factors accounted for 24 percent of the variability in childhood obesity rates across neighborhoods.

"What we found confirms that it takes a village to raise a child," said lead author H. Mollie Greves Grow, MD MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the UW, Seattle Children's, and Harborview Medical Center. "Children are raised not only at home but also in their community." Disadvantaged neighborhoods may present many obstacles for children's weight, such as less access to healthy foods and more unhealthy fast-food outlets. They also often lack safe places for children to play outdoors.

"Childhood obesity is not just a family problem, but a larger community and societal problem," Dr. Grow added. "A disadvantaged environment can set families up for ill health, and it's unfair to blame them for not taking enough 'personal responsibility' to manage their weight. We don't yet know all of the factors that may create disadvantage, but we know it is present and associated with higher obesity."

The research team collected anonymous, "de-identified" electronic medical record information on 8,616 children age 6-18 receiving care at Group Health Cooperative -- and then correlated these data to the social and economic characteristics of Seattle-area census tracts.

This study of childhood obesity helped overcome the limitations of previous studies by using weight measurements pulled from medical records, not self-reported by study subjects. Self-reporting is often less accurate. This was the first study evaluating childhood obesity to use rigorous statistical methods of spatial modeling to smooth out differences based on arbitrary census tract lines. Using this technique helped provide a more accurate effect of neighborhoods on children's weight.

"We were a little surprised that each of the census tract factors we included appeared to contribute, in a slightly different way, to the likelihood of childhood obesity," Dr. Grow said. The likelihood of childhood obesity rose by 17 percent to 24 percent for each of three measures of neighborhood social disadvantage: each 10 percent decrease in female education and two-parent households, and each $10,000 decline in household income. Effects related to race and homeownership were smaller but still statistically significant.

Overall, King County's demographics resemble those of other urban U.S. areas. "But King County has one of the strongest public health efforts, a relatively walkable environment, and efforts to expand affordable access to healthy, fresh foods," said Dr. Grow. So she and her colleagues expect the links between childhood obesity and neighborhood disadvantage may be even more pronounced elsewhere.

Dr. Grow and her coauthors are not only continuing to study how neighborhoods with low socioeconomic status raise the risk of childhood obesity. They are also contributing to solutions by leading programs to help overweight youth and their families:

  • Dr. Grow helps lead ACT! (Actively Changing Together!), a YMCA of Greater Seattle program helping children and families increase physical activity and eat nutritiously. (ACT! was previously called Strong Kids Strong Teens.)
  • Coauthor Paula Lozano, MD, MPH, an associate investigator at Group Health Research Institute and associate professor of pediatrics at the UW and Seattle Children's, runs Group Health's Family Wellness Program.
  • Another coauthor, Brian E. Saelens, PhD, of the UW and Seattle Children's, leads COMPASS, a study of a yearlong program at Seattle Children's to help local families lose weight.

"I have seen some resilient families beat the odds by boosting their children's health despite their environment, and I hope to help other families do the same," Dr. Grow said. "Still, even more health gains would come from narrowing the inequality gaps that have been widening between rich and poor in this country. We should strive for all families to have access to walkable neighborhoods, safe parks, healthy grocery store options, and active schools. Tax dollars, voters, community planners, builders, and green spaces can all help make an impact."

Drs. Grow, Lozano, and Saelens's co-authors were Group Health Research Institute's David E. Arterburn, MD, MPH, and Andrea J. Cook, PhD; and the UW's Adam Drewnowski, PhD. This research started as a joint project between the UW Exploratory Center for Obesity Research (ECOR) and Group Health that was funded by a pilot grant from Dr. Drewnowski's National Institutes of Health (NIH) Roadmap Initiative project. ECOR is part of the UW's Center for Public Health Nutrition. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) also provided funding.

These latest findings build on research that Dr. Drewnowski's group has conducted on so-called "fat ZIP codes." For instance, in May 2010, he and a team of UW researchers released a

study

on economic access to healthy, affordable foods. The study revealed obesity rates by supermarket chain in King County and tracked where consumers go to buy groceries.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Group Health Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H Mollie Greves Grow, Andrea J Cook, David E Arterburn, Brian E Saelens, Adam Drewnowski, Paula Lozano. Child obesity associated with social disadvantage of children's neighborhoods. Social Science & Medicine, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.04.018

Cite This Page:

Group Health Research Institute. "Childhood obesity linked to neighborhood social and economic status, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100611141529.htm>.
Group Health Research Institute. (2010, June 14). Childhood obesity linked to neighborhood social and economic status, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100611141529.htm
Group Health Research Institute. "Childhood obesity linked to neighborhood social and economic status, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100611141529.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

AFP (July 28, 2014) The worst-ever outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic grips west Africa, killing hundreds. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Newsy (July 27, 2014) Google is collecting genetic and molecular information to paint a picture of the perfectly healthy human. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins