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 October 20, 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 October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 18, 2014) Researchers at The National University of Singapore have invented a new microneedle patch that could offer a faster and less painful delivery of drugs such as insulin and painkillers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital walked down the stairs of an executive jet into an ambulance at an airport in Frederick, Maryland, on Thursday. Pham will be treated at the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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