Study examines effects of ‘neighborhood poverty’ on obesity

June 20, 2014, Medical Xpress

By Karene Booker

By age 2, poor children have gained more weight than their wealthier counterparts. But after age 2, neighborhood poverty, not family poverty, puts the pounds on, finds a new study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

About one-third of America’s children are overweight or obese, but rates are highest among poor and minority children. The study identifies for the first time the effects of neighborhood-level poverty, family poverty, and ethnicity on children’s weight, shedding new light on the origins of adult health disparities, the authors say.

“The effects of neighborhood poverty on children’s weight may be just as important as the effects of family poverty,” says Cornell’s Gary W. Evans, the Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Ecology, who co-authored the study with Pamela Klebanov, Princeton University, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Columbia University.

“Children and families are embedded in neighborhoods; poor neighborhoods differ structurally from wealthier neighborhoods, with fewer safe and natural places to play and exercise, fewer supermarkets and more fast food,” Evans explains. Continue reading

Children who live in “smart growth” neighborhoods get 46 percent more physical activity

Sept. 10, 2013, News Medical

Children who live in “smart growth” neighborhoods — developments that are designed to increase walkability and have more parks and green space areas — get 46 percent more moderate or vigorous physical activity than kids who live in conventional neighborhoods, finds a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“We were surprised by the size of the effect,” said Michael Jerrett, Ph.D., professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author on the study.

He and his colleagues evaluated activity patterns in children aged 8 to 14 who recently moved to a smart growth community called The Preserve near Chino, CA. The researchers compared them with children living in eight nearby conventional communities, matched for ethnicity and family income. Continue reading