A child's weight can be determined in part by what neighborhood he or she grows up in, a new series of studies indicate. (Photo by Getty Images)
In one of the studies, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers examined neighborhoods in King County, Wash., and San Diego County, Calif., and rated them in terms of physical activity and nutrition for kids ages 6 to through 11. A neighborhood received a high rating if its residents could easily walk to places like stores, libraries and parks. They also got a good grade if they had several grocery stores where healthy foods are sold, reports Kim Carollo for ABC News.
Poor-rated neighborhoods had few grocery stores or had lots of fast food restaurants. They also had few parks. "The biggest difference we found in rates of obesity were in the places where the environment was good for both nutrition and physical activity, the rates were less than 8 percent, but if the nutrition and physical activity were not good, the rates went up to 16 percent," said Brian Saelens, a co-author and professor of pediatrics at Seattle Children's Research Institute. (Read more)
The findings, explored using geographic information systems, are in keeping with an op-ed piece by Susan Blumenthal, public-health editor for the Huffington Post. Making the link between poverty and obesity, she points out the difference an affordable housing project has made in Greenbridge in King County, an immigrant community where more than 54 percent of adults are overweight or obese and more than 85 percent of children in grades 8, 10 and 12 do not meet federal physical activity recommendations.
The neighborhood is "being designed and built as models for creating an environment that promotes healthy diets and active lifestyles for their residents," she explains. The neighborhood now boasts an elementary school, a Head Start program, a Boys and Girls Club, community gardens to grown fresh fruits and vegetables, a library, play areas, walking path, a food bank, a community center and a public health clinic.
"This integrative approach has turned a trouble neighborhood into a welcoming place to live," she writes. "Initiatives like this one that involve not only individuals but the entire family and community provide a model for how to improve the health of cities across our nation." (Read more)