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Lack Of Healthy Food Options Cause Of Obesity Disparity

Armen Hareyan's picture

"The lack of healthy [food] alternatives, coupled with thedisproportionate variety of fried and fatty foods in the area,certainly contributes to the obesity rate" of residents inpredominately black neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., MalcolmWoodland, a researcher and NIH LRP health disparities fellow, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece (Woodland, Washington Post, 11/18).

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Earlier this month, Vanderbilt Universityresearchers presented a study finding that the obesity gap betweenblacks and whites in Washington, D.C., is the widest of 164jurisdictions nationwide. The data, from 2001 through 2005, includedinformation on more than 367,000 people. Researchers found that inWashington, D.C., the obesity rate for blacks was 31%, compared with 8%for whites. Researcher David Schlundt said education, income, cultureand the urban environment might be factors behind the gap (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 11/6).

Woodlandwrites that in some black neighborhoods in the district, "healthy foodoptions are rare," yet research conducted at the Mount Sinai MedicalCenter "revealed that when blacks have healthy neighborhood foodchoices, their fruit and vegetable consumption increases more than thatof any other racial group." That same research "concluded that forevery full-service supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood,fruit and vegetable consumption among blacks in the surrounding areaincreased by 32%," Woodland adds.

"For varying reasons, suchas wealth disparities and access to personal transportation, otherresearchers have also pointed out that the local food environment tendsto influence the food choices of blacks and other people of color morethan whites," Woodland writes. He concludes, "Until the unequal accessto not only healthful food but also health insurance, medicalpractitioners and health facilities is truly addressed, the fat gapwill continue to grow" (Washington Post, 11/18).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser WeeklyHealth Disparities Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.