New Study Finds California Neighborhoods ”Designed for Disease” | Business Wire

DAVIS, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Californians face an added challenge as they battle expanding waistlines

and obesity-related diseases – their address.

A landmark study released today shows the state’s

first direct correlation between where you live and your risk for

obesity or diabetes.

The groundbreaking study, Designed for Disease: the Link Between

Local Food Environments and Obesity and Diabetes, examines the

correlation between the health of nearly 40,000 Californians and the mix

of retail food outlets near their homes. The key finding: people living

in neighborhoods crowded with fast-food and convenience stores but

relatively few grocery or produce outlets are at significantly higher

risk of suffering from obesity and diabetes.

“Whether we realise it or not, we're affected

by the food choices around us,” said Dr.

Harold Goldstein of the California Centre for Public Health Advocacy

(CCPHA), one of the study’s authors. “Maybe

it’s time to consider adding the fast-food

LMI Taps David Helms to Lead Center for Health Reform | Business Wire

MCLEAN, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Renowned health policy expert David Helms will join LMI as director of the new LMI Center for Health Reform. Helms leaves AcademyHealth, the highly regarded policy research organization he helped found, for the opportunity to work hands-on on health reform implementation.

“Given the critical issues in American healthcare, I am pleased to be joining LMI as it embarks on bringing its considerable expertise and experience to the health arena,” Helms said. “Through the Center, we have an opportunity to work with federal and state governments to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of health care markets, and through community efforts to improve care delivery.”

Throughout Helm’s long career in health planning, policy and research, he has been assisting federal, state and community leaders to assess and develop needed changes in healthcare. At LMI, he will serve as director of the new Center for Health Reform, working with many of these same public- and private-sector leaders as they confront specific implementation challenges.

“David has been at the forefront of improving the American healthcare system for over 30...

joints and convenience stores around every corner to the Environmental

Protection Agency’s list of known

environmental toxins. This study suggests that they may quite literally

be making us sick.”

To understand the impact of the food landscape on health, CCPHA,

PolicyLink and the UCLA Centre for Health Policy Research matched the

prevalence of obesity and diabetes from the 2005 California Health

Interview Survey (CHIS) to nearly 40,000 respondents’

Retail Food Environment Index (RFEI) scores. The RFEI is the number of

fast-food and convenience stores divided by the number of grocery and

produce stores around one’s home.

“The relationship was striking in both its

consistency and implications,” says Dr. Susan

Babey of the UCLA Centre for Health Policy Research. “Throughout

the state, adults living in high RFEI areas (RFEI of five or higher) had

a 20 percent higher prevalence of obesity. A 23 percent higher

prevalence of diabetes than their counterparts living in low RFEI areas

(RFEI below three). This is some of the most powerful evidence yet of

how the foods available in our communities are shaping the obesity and

diabetes epidemics.”

Though low-income communities are often hit hardest by this phenomenon,

the health correlation is seen across all geographic regions, income

levels and ethnicities. Statewide, the average RFEI of all study

participants is 4.5, meaning that they find four times more fast-food

and convenience stores than grocery stores and produce vendors when they

step out their door. California is home to 14,826 fast-food restaurants

and 6,659 convenience stores. By contrast, the state has 3,853 grocery

stores and 1,292 produce stands (including farmers’

markets). This disproportionate access to less nutritious foods is,

according to the study’s authors, especially

alarming in light of the growing obesity and diabetes epidemics, which

cost California $6 billion and $18 billion per year, respectively.

Counties where survey respondents had on average more than five times

the number of unhealthy retail food options as healthy options include

San Bernardino (5.60), Stanislaus (5.23), Kern (5.23), Solano (5.11) and

Fresno (5.01). All of these counties have higher rates of obesity and

diabetes than counties with average RFEIs below three. In fact, Marin

and Santa Cruz Counties, which had the lowest RFEI scores (2.06 and

2.24, respectively), had both the lowest obesity and diabetes prevalence

in the state.

“Clearly the obesity crisis in California can

no longer be seen only as a fight over personal choices,”

insists Dr. Victor Rubin of PolicyLink. “Public

policies drive the universe of food options from which we can choose.

Families who live in communities with choices limited to high-calorie

foods and beverages face substantially greater health risks. Policy

makers at the state and local level can save lives by giving

Californians healthier food options.”

The full text of the study is available on the CCPHA Web site at: www.publichealthadvocacy.org/designedfordisease.html.

Brown-Miller Communications
Paula Hamilton, 800-710-9333