In 2008 through 2010, the researchers collected follow-up information, including measurements of height, weight and blood samples to test for diabetes.
During the follow-up period, 17 percent of the women in the control group were morbidly obese, which means a body mass index of 40 or above. Among the women who moved to lower-poverty areas, that rate was 14.4 percent, which is 19 percent lower than the control group, according to the study. Women who received traditional housing vouchers had a morbid obesity rate of 15.4 percent.
The rate of diabetes was 16.3 percent in the women who moved to lower-poverty areas, 20.6 percent in the traditional housing voucher group and 20 percent in the control group.
Ludwig said this study wasn't designed to identify the specific factors that might have contributed to the drop in obesity and diabetes rates after moving to lower-poverty areas, but that there are four major factors that likely contributed. One is access to better foods. In higher-poverty areas, there are often no grocery stores, only small corner stores. Another is the ability to exercise in safer neighborhoods. Access to better health care may also play a role, said Ludwig. And, reduced psychological stress because of moving to a safer neighborhood may also help, he said.
"This was a good study looking at a very complicated problem. And, they showed that the neighborhood may be a very important component in controlling obesity and diabetes," said Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
And, he added, the change wasn't an expensive one to implement.
Ludwig said that counseling was really the only additional cost of t
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