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Improved living environments can reduce health problems for women and children
Date:10/20/2011

morbidly obese with a body mass index at or above 40, and 20 percent had diabetes.

"These findings provide strong evidence that the environments in low-income neighborhoods can contribute to poor health," said Ludwig.

The research team included another University of Chicago faculty member, Stacy Tessler Lindau, associate professor in obstetrics and gynecology, who is also an expert in urban health. "Obesity and diabetes are among the biggest health problems facing our country, and they are preventable. But preventing these conditions through interventions that target individual behavioral change has proven very difficult," she said.

"This study shows that where a woman lives with her children may, in part, determine whether she develops serious, costly, life-shortening diseases like diabetes and extreme obesity. Giving a low-income woman the opportunity to move with her children to a less impoverished neighborhood appears to lower her risk of diabetes and extreme obesity," said Tessler Lindau.

Disadvantaged community environments that contribute to extreme obesity and diabetes could help explain the increase over time in these health problems. The study's findings could also help explain disparities in obesity and diabetes prevalence across race and ethnic lines in the United States.

"The increase in U.S. residential segregation according to income in recent decades suggests that a larger portion of the population is being exposed to distressed neighborhood environments," they write in the paper. "Minorities are also more likely than whites to live in distressed areas."

"These results highlight the great importance of learning more about what specific aspects of the social or physical environment reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity; for example, greater access to grocery stores, more opportunities for physical activity or feelings of greater safety and reduced psychological stress," said Ludwig.

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Contact: Bobbie Mixon
bmixon@nsf.gov
703-292-8485
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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