Having less access to resources such as recreational programs, parks and full-service grocery stores have a greater impact on the nation’s childhood obesity rate than race, according to a recent report.
Researchers have tracked high rates of obesity among Black and Hispanic kids, but a closer look at communities shows family income plays a role in childhood obesity rates.
Although obesity rates were higher among African-American and Hispanic kids, the relation to race or ethnicity disappeared when factoring in family income, according to the study published in the journal Childhood Obesity.
“The findings reveal differences in the inequalities in the physical and social environment in which children are raised,” said senior author Kim A. Eagle, M.D., a cardiologist and director at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. “It illustrates that race and ethnicity in communities may not have a significant connection to obesity status once the community’s income is considered.”
In 2006, Eagle founded Project Healthy School, in collaboration with public and private partners, to teach sixth-grade students about the importance of making healthy food choices and reducing time spent watching TV and playing video games.nIn low-income communities, where places to play and supermarkets may be scarce, it’s more likely children will not be active and will consume fast food, the authors say.
Eagle and colleagues from the Michigan Clinical Outcomes Research and Reporting Program used data collected from mandated student body-mass index screenings that began in Massachusetts schools in 2011.
Among the school districts, for every 1 percent increase in low-income status, there was a 1.17 percent increase in rates of overweight/obesity among students.
To correlate community rates of childhood obesity with lower-income status, the percentage of students who were overweight or obese was compared with the percentage of students in each district who were eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, transitional aid or food stamps.
“The battle to curb childhood obesity is critically tied to understanding its causes and focusing on the modifiable factors that can lead to positive health changes for each and every child,” Eagle said.
Obesity rates among adults and children in the United States have steadily risen in the past few decades. Approximately 18.4 percent of 12 to 19 year olds are overweight or obese and childhood obesity often continues into adulthood.
There’s a 70 percent chance that an overweight adolescent will remain overweight or obese as an adult, and in the short run, obesity can lead to cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and abnormal glucose tolerance or diabetes.