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Low-Income Communities tend to have higher rates of Childhood Obesity, Study Finds

Update Date: Jan 08, 2016 09:38 AM EST

Several studies that have been conducted on childhood obesity, an epidemic that continues to grow, tended to find a similar trend - obese children were more likely to be black and Hispanic. Despite these findings, a new study that looked closely at communities is reporting that it is not the child's race that determines his/her risk of childhood obesity, but rather, the income of the child's household.

For this study, the researchers from the Michigan Clinical Outcomes Research and Reporting Program utilized a model that was developed using data on 111,799 students living in Massachusetts. Data on children from 68 public school districts were collected starting in 2011.

Initially, the researchers found what other studies have continued to find, which was that the obesity rates were higher in black and Hispanic children. However, once they factored in family income, the link between race and weight was no longer significant. Instead, they calculated that for every one percent increase in the poverty rate, there was a 1.17 percent spike in the childhood obesity/overweight rates.

"The findings reveal differences in the inequalities in the physical and social environment in which children are raised," senior author Kim A. Eagle, M.D., a cardiologist and director at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, said reported by Medical Xpress. "It illustrates that race and ethnicity in communities may not have a significant connection to obesity status once the community's income is considered."

The experts explained that the discrepancies were most likely due to the fact that low-income neighborhoods tended to have fewer parks, recreational programs and fewer options when it comes to grocery shopping.

"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. "Ultimately, bottom-up neighborhood, school, and community engagement and education, and top-down legislative actions that will support healthier choices for adults and children, are needed to battle this health crisis

The study's findings were published in the journal, Childhood Obesity.

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