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University of Wisconsin–Madison
Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Tag: Obesity

Obesity Rates Among Low-Income Preschoolers

  • Obesity rates decline among low-income preschoolers after rising for decades, By Lena H. Sun, August 6, 2013, Washington Post: “After decades of rising, obesity rates among low-income U.S. preschoolers declined broadly from 2008 to 2011, according to a federal report released Tuesday that offered the first glimpse of good news for children considered among the most vulnerable to the disease’s health risks. While other, smaller studies have cited drops among school-age children, the data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention represent by far the largest and most comprehensive report of declining obesity rates in poor children, officials said…”
  • Obesity among low-income preschoolers drops slightly, By Brad Balukjian, August 6, 2013, Los Angeles Times: “Obesity among low-income preschool-age children has declined slightly in many states, including California, providing some evidence that the battle against childhood obesity may finally be turning, according to researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…”

CDC US Health Report 2011

  • CDC: Higher income and education levels linked to better health, By Alexandra Sifferlin, May 16, 2012, Time: “More educated people who make more money have lower rates of several chronic diseases, including obesity, compared to people with lower education and income levels, according to Health, United States, 2011, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. In the government’s 35th annual comprehensive health report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), data from nearly 60 major data sources within the federal government and in the private sector provide a health-related snapshot of life in the U.S. The NCHS looks at data from the start of the study in 1975 through 2010. ‘We like to highlight different things we find interesting for readers,’ says Amy Bernstein, a health services researcher at NCHS…”
  • Higher education linked to longer life, CDC report shows, By Nanci Hellmich, May 16, 2012, USA Today: “Education may not only improve a person’s finances, it is also linked to better health habits and a longer life. For instance, people who have a bachelor’s degree or higher live about nine years longer than those who don’t graduate from high school, according to an annual report, out today, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. Some of the health data reached back a decade or more…”

Food Insecurity and Nutrition

A food stamp paradox: Starving isn’t the issue – it’s access to nutritious foods, By Eric Schulzke, April 28 2012, Deseret News: “When Jill Warner’s husband lost his job as a product manager in 2009 and entered a bout of hard-core unemployment, they and their four children eventually turned to food stamps. For the first four months, they had zero family income and received $900 a month in food stamps. ‘We ate what we wanted,’ Warner recalls. ‘And we had plenty of flexibility.’ She would leave Costco loaded with snap peas, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and fresh meat, and after a busy day she would stop at Papa Murphy’s on the way home. Because Murphy’s is ‘take and bake,’ rather than served hot, she could use food stamps. ‘Food access was great,’ she said, ‘but mortgage, utilities and car payments were another matter.’  After a few months, her husband found entry level work that barely paid the bills, and their food benefit dropped to $500. ‘That was very tight,’ Warner said. ‘We had to compromise and buy more basic foods, and it was a close call.’ Firmly entrenched in middle class habits and attitudes, Warner is not quite the face of American hunger…”

Poor Neighborhoods and Health

  • Poor neighborhoods may contribute to poor health, By Amina Khan, October 20, 2011, Los Angeles Times: “People who move from a poor neighborhood to a better-off one could end up thinner and healthier than those who stay behind, according to an urban housing experiment that tracked low-income residents in five major cities for 10 to 15 years. The research, set up by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, shows that health is closely linked to the environments people live in – and that social policies to change those environments or move people away from blighted areas could be a key tactic in fighting the ‘diabesity’ epidemic. The study released Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine took advantage of a 1990s social experiment approved by Congress primarily to track the changes in income, education and employment of people given the opportunity to move out of low-income housing in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago, New York and Boston. At least 40% of the residents at the start of the study made less money than the federal poverty threshold. Researchers soon realized that the project could allow them to study residents’ changes in health as well, said study coauthor Dr. Robert Whitaker, a pediatrician at Temple University in Philadelphia…”
  • Study: Living in poor neighborhood can hurt health, By Mike Stobbe (AP), October 21, 2011, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Back in the 1990s, the federal government tried an unusual social experiment: It offered thousands of poor women in big-city public housing a chance to live in more affluent neighborhoods. A decade later, the women who relocated had lower rates of diabetes and extreme obesity – differences that are being hailed as compelling evidence that where you live can determine your health. The experiment was initially aimed at researching whether moving impoverished families to more prosperous areas could improve employment or schooling. But according to a study released Wednesday, the most interesting effect may have been on the women’s physical condition…”
  • Study: Better neighborhood lowers obesity, diabetes risk, By Nanci Hellmich, October 19, 2011, USA Today: “Low-income moms who move from very poor neighborhoods to less disadvantaged ones lower their risk of becoming extremely obese and developing type 2 diabetes, a study reveals. ‘This research shows how important the environment can be for people’s health,’ says the study’s lead author, Jens Ludwig, a professor of social service administration, law and public policy at the University of Chicago. Obesity increases people’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems. People in poorer neighborhoods are at a higher risk of becoming too heavy because they may not have access to grocery stores that are well-stocked with healthy fare such as fresh fruits and vegetables, often don’t have safe places to be physically active and may have greater concerns about safety, which could impact their psychological stress and eating habits, Ludwig says…”

Poverty and Obesity – Mississippi

Tackling obesity amid poverty in a Mississippi county, By Debbie Elliott, August 9, 2011, National Public Radio: “The average life expectancy for men in Holmes County, Miss., is 65 years. That’s a full decade shorter than the U.S. average. So what’s killing people there? Researchers say it’s no coincidence that Holmes County is also one of Mississippi’s poorest, and most obese. Forty-two percent of the county’s residents are considered obese. Calvin Head, the county’s former transportation director, doesn’t have to see the statistics on paper. He saw the problem first hand: The school buses were overcrowded, but there were not more students…”

Food Deserts – West Virginia

  • USDA: Parts of W.Va. qualify as ‘food deserts’, By Taylor Kuykendall, July 24, 2011, Register-Herald: “West Virginia, a state that conjures up memories of wooded valleys, streams, rivers, lakes and lush fields, is also a land of desert – not a hot, dry expanse, but instead areas with extensive droughts in regard to food access. According to the USDA, a ‘food desert’ is a ‘low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.’ This is defined as communities with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher or a median family income at or below 80 percent of the area’s median family income or a community with one-third of its population more than a mile (or 10 miles in a rural area) from a supermarket or grocery store. The effort has largely been spearheaded by first lady Michelle Obama, who has promoted various healthy initiatives since moving into the White House…”
  • Michelle Obama, Wal-Mart and the ‘food desert’ problem, By Daniela Hernandez, July 22, 2011, Los Angeles Times: “Nothing’s ever as simple as we’d like it to be. A case in point: Policies that simply increase access to supermarkets may not get people to choose an apple over ice cream, a recent study reported. Changing people’s eating habits is difficult, in other words. One reason is money. Healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy, can often be pricey. For the cost of a couple of peaches, a person can get a full meal on the dollar menu at a fast-food outlet. Another problem: The produce in stores in low income neighborhoods is often of low quality.This is a hefty problem, given that 1 in every 3 children and adults is overweight or obese. Policy-makers and health-food advocates across the country are developing programs to increase access to healthful foods-and make it easier for people to buy them…”

Neighborhoods and Access to Groceries

  • Big retailers make pledge of stores for ‘food deserts’, By Sean Collins Walsh, July 20, 2011, New York Times: “Executives from Wal-Mart, Walgreens, SuperValu and other stores joined Michelle Obama at the White House on Wednesday to announce a pledge to open or expand a combined 1,500 stores in communities that have limited access to nutritious food and are designated as ‘food deserts.’ With the pledges, secured by the Partnership for a Healthier America, which is part of Mrs. Obama’s campaign to reduce childhood obesity, the stores aim to reach 9.5 million of the 23.5 million Americans who live in areas where finding affordable healthy foods can be difficult. In those areas, many people turn to fast food restaurants or convenience stores…”
  • First lady, grocers vow to build stores in ‘food deserts’, By Yian Q. Mui, July 20, 2011, Washington Post: “Supermarkets joined with first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday in a pledge to build stores in poor neighborhoods that have historically lacked access to fresh groceries, part of her signature effort to combat childhood obesity. Participating retailers include Wal-Mart, the country’s largest grocer, Walgreens and Supervalu and regional supermarkets such as Brown’s Super Stores in Philadelphia and Calhoun Foods in Alabama and Tennessee. Together, they promised to open more than 500 stores that will employ tens of thousands of people…”

Neighborhoods and Access to Groceries

Access to grocers doesn’t improve diets, study finds, By Daniela Hernandez, July 12, 2011, Los Angeles Times: “Better access to supermarkets – long touted as a way to curb obesity in low-income neighborhoods – doesn’t improve people’s diets, according to new research. The study, which tracked thousands of people in several large cities for 15 years, found that people didn’t eat more fruits and vegetables when they had supermarkets available in their neighborhoods. Instead, income – and proximity to fast food restaurants – were the strongest factors in food choice. The results, published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, throw some cold water on the idea that lack of access to fresh produce and other healthful foods is a major driver in the disproportionate rates of obesity among the poor, or that simply encouraging grocery chains to open in deprived areas will fix the problem, said study lead author Barry Popkin, director of the Nutrition Transition Program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill…”

State Obesity Rates

  • Income may have impact on waistline, By Danielle Cintron, July 8, 2011, Fargo-Moorhead Forum: “Could the poverty line be affecting the U.S.’s waistline? Those with less education or who make less money continue to have the highest overall obesity rates, according to a study released Thursday by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. ‘One particular factor is poverty,’ said Jeff Levi, executive director of TFAH. ‘Lower income is associated with higher rates of obesity…'”
  • Southerners, poor have highest rates of obesity, By Nanci Hellmich, July 8, 2011, USA Today: “People may still be tightening their belts because of the economy, but too many continue to let them out because of weight gain. The percentage of obese adults increased in 16 states over past year and didn’t decline in any state, a report says. In addition, the number of adults who say they don’t do any physical activity increased in 14 states this past year. ‘The bad news is the obesity rates are really high,’ says Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, a non-profit group that prepared the report along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. ‘But if you are looking for a silver lining it’s that only 16 states showed an increase this last year, and in the past, more states had increases,’ he says…”

Childhood Obesity – Ohio

30 percent of Ohio kids overweight, study shows, By Catherine Candisky, March 3, 2011, Columbus Dispatch: “Despite increased efforts to combat childhood obesity, the percentage of overweight children in Ohio remains at more than 30, virtually unchanged in the past five years, a state health department study released yesterday found. State officials said the findings mirror national data for all states. The causes are no surprise: lack of exercise, poor diet, poverty, lack of access to healthy foods. The study included some alarming statistics. For example, 40 percent of third-grade students drink more than two sugar-sweetened drinks a day, and youngsters who watch three or more hours of television a day were more likely to be overweight and obese than those who spend less time on the couch. Still, officials say the good news is that childhood obesity has not gotten worse…”

Fast Food Ban – South Los Angeles, CA

In South Los Angeles, new fast-food spots get a ‘No, thanks’, By Jennifer Medina, January 15, 2011, New York Times: “Driving along Crenshaw Boulevard, it is not difficult to find a place to grab a bite. At some intersections, there is a fast-food joint on each corner. If the restaurant chains had their way in some parts of town, city officials say, no street would be without its own fast-food outlet. Los Angeles is making one of the nation’s most radical food policies permanent by effectively banning new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles, a huge section of the city that has significantly higher rates of poverty and obesity than other neighborhoods. A handful of much smaller cities have enacted similar regulations for primarily aesthetic reasons, but Los Angeles, officials say, is the first to do so as part of a public health effort. The regulations, which the City Council passed unanimously last month, are meant to encourage healthier neighborhood dining options. Supporters envision more sit-down restaurants, produce-filled grocery stores and takeout meals that center on salad rather than fries…”

Farmers Markets and WIC – New Hampshire

Farmers markets help WIC recipients, By Jillian Jorgensen, July 26, 2010, Eagle-Tribune: “Farmers markets aren’t just a nice place to spend a summer afternoon shopping – they can also provide some extra fruits and vegetables to people who receive federal assistance. “I think it is a really important thing that will help decrease the obesity problem in this country, to make fresh fruits and vegetables available,” said Lisa Bujno, chief of the New Hampshire Population Health and Community Services Bureau. “It’s a really important part of a balanced diet.” The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program provides coupons to those receiving assistance through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children – more commonly known as WIC – and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program…”

State Childhood Obesity Rates

  • Oregon kids show decrease in obesity rates, By Joe Rojas-Burke, May 3, 2010, The Oregonian: “Kids in Oregon — unlike those in 49 other states — are getting leaner, a new study suggests. Problem is, experts can’t explain why Oregon has veered from the extreme weight-gain trend that continues at an alarming rate elsewhere. The prevalence of obesity among 10- to 17-year olds climbed 10 percent nationwide, and it doubled among girls in two states: Arizona and Kansas. But Oregon’s youth obesity rate fell by 32 percent between 2003 and 2007, researchers with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported this week. ‘It seems quite substantial,’ said Gopal Singh, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. ‘We don’t know precisely the reasons for it.’ Singh and others tracked obesity using the National Survey of Children’s Health, a telephone survey of parents. The researchers used height and weight to calculate whether children were overweight or obese…”
  • Oregon has lowest rate of childhood obesity, By Carla K. Johnson (AP), May 3, 2010, Washington Post: “What’s the magic in Oregon that keeps kids lean? It’s a mystery health officials would like to solve as they admit all states are failing – by a mile – to meet federal goals for childhood obesity. Oregon has the nation’s lowest rate of hefty kids, according to a new government study, which found big gaps between regions and ballooning obesity rates in many states from 2003 to 2007. More than 16 percent of American children ages 10 to 17 years were not just overweight, but obese, in 2007. That’s a 10 percent rise from 2003. Mississippi topped the nation with more than a fifth of its kids obese. Oregon was the star, with the lowest rate of obesity – defined as body mass index in the 95th percentile or above – at just under 10 percent. And Oregon was the only state whose childhood obesity fell significantly from 2003 to 2007…”

Hunger and Obesity

The obesity-hunger paradox, By Sam Dolnick, March 12, 2010, New York Times: “When most people think of hunger in America, the images that leap to mind are of ragged toddlers in Appalachia or rail-thin children in dingy apartments reaching for empty bottles of milk. Once, maybe. But a recent survey found that the most severe hunger-related problems in the nation are in the South Bronx, long one of the country’s capitals of obesity. Experts say these are not parallel problems persisting in side-by-side neighborhoods, but plagues often seen in the same households, even the same person: the hungriest people in America today, statistically speaking, may well be not sickly skinny, but excessively fat. Call it the Bronx Paradox. ‘Hunger and obesity are often flip sides to the same malnutrition coin,’ said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. ‘Hunger is certainly almost an exclusive symptom of poverty. And extra obesity is one of the symptoms of poverty.’ The Bronx has the city’s highest rate of obesity, with residents facing an estimated 85 percent higher risk of being obese than people in Manhattan, according to Andrew G. Rundle, an epidemiologist at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University…”