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According to a new research report, poverty is a better predictor of childhood obesity than race. Based on information from 110,000 Massachusetts students, a statistical model found that, as children’s families income dropped their obesity rates rose. The report found that obesity rates were higher among Latino children.
The researchers suspected that a lack of parks, full-service grocery stores, and recreational programs in poorer neighborhoods may lead to children in poverty to eating unhealthier foods and exercising less.
“The findings reveal differences in the inequalities in the physical and social environment in which children are raised,” said Dr. Kim Eagle, the senior study author 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.”
While the study, which was published in Journal of Childhood Obesity, found a link between childhood obesity and poverty, it did not find there to be a cause-and-effect relationship. Obesity rates have climbed steadily in the last two decades, especially among Latinos.
More than 18% of children between the ages of 12 and 19 are overweight or obese, according to the research. These obese children tend to remain obese into adulthood, which increases their risk for illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
“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.