Neighborhood Poverty Level Linked to Obesity, Diabetes

Moving from area with high to low poverty in United States modestly reduces obesity, diabetes

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Moving from a neighborhood with a high level of poverty to one with a low level of poverty is associated with a slight reduction in the prevalence of extreme obesity and diabetes, according to a study published in the Oct. 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Jens Ludwig, Ph.D., from the University of Chicago, and colleagues used data from a social experiment to investigate the correlation of randomly assigned variations in neighborhood conditions with obesity and diabetes. A total of 4,498 women with children living in public housing in high poverty urban census tracts between 1994 and 1998 were randomly assigned to receive housing vouchers, redeemable only if they moved to a low-poverty census tract and were counseled on moving, or receive unrestricted, traditional vouchers, with no special counseling on moving. The remaining women were controls who received neither opportunity. Health outcomes, including height, weight, and level of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), were assessed from 2008 to 2010. Data on body-mass index (BMI) and HbA1c were obtained for 84.2 and 71.3 percent of the participants, respectively. Response rates were similar among all groups.

The investigators found that, compared to controls, the group receiving the low-poverty vouchers had lower prevalence of BMI of 35 kg/m² or more, BMI of 40 kg/m² or more, and HbA1c of 6.5 percent or more, with an absolute difference of 4.61, 3.38, and 4.31 percent, respectively. No significant differences were found between the group receiving traditional vouchers and the control group.

"Our finding that neighborhood environments are associated with the prevalence of obesity and diabetes may have implications for understanding trends and disparities in overall health across the United States," the authors write.

One study author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical, health management, and biotechnology industries, and to Walgreens. Another author disclosed a financial relationship with PepsiCo.

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