People who live in poor, urban neighborhoods have less access to quality fruits and vegetables and to stores selling a larger variety of foods than those who live in higher-income neighborhoods, according to two studies being presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO)'s Annual Scientific Meeting.
One study compared the availability and quality of produce in high-income versus low-income urban neighborhoods in Kansas City. The study found that people living in low-income, urban neighborhoods had access to at least one convenience store and a liquor store that sold convenience foods but very few supermarkets or grocery stores. The produce that was available to these neighborhoods included few fresh fruits and hardly any vegetables. In contrast, the high-income urban neighborhoods studied were more likely to have access to supermarkets and grocery stores and the quality and quantity of produce available was higher than that found in low-income neighborhoods.
"Obesity disproportionately burdens low-income, ethnic minority populations," said Rebecca E. Lee, PhD, of the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston, in Houston, TX and lead researcher on the study. "The results of our study suggest that one reason may be that these populations have less access to healthy foods."
In a separate study, conducted by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine's Children's Nutrition Research Center in Houston, two economic characteristics of low-income neighborhoods (lower than average household income and a less educated workforce), explained the absence of superstores in these neighborhoods. (Superstores typically sell a larger variety of produce and other foods). Predominantly African-American neighborhoods were more likely to have fewer chain grocery stores and more independently owned operations (which typically offer more limited food choices).
The studies were presented as part of a joint effort by NAASO and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to increase awareness of the rising problem of obesity and its related health problems in the United States. NAASO and ADA recognize obesity as a significant threat to public health and are cooperating to provide further opportunities for sharing obesity information, increasing obesity awareness and facilitating more research and better clinical care in their joint effort to fight this disease.