Women In Higher Class Areas Have Better Health
Researchers in the United States who are involved in creating government initiatives to combat obesity in the country have found that poor women who move to lower-poverty neighborhoods had better health including improved control over Type 2 diabetes.
The research was outlined in the latest online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine and describes an experiment in which 4,498 poor women and children were offered housing vouchers to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods. The experiment was part of a program called Moving to Opportunity and ran from 1994 to 1998 and was funded by several United States. government departments and foundations. The research found that these women and children who moved to these neighborhoods experienced rates of morbid obesity and diabetes that were about one-fifth lower than in the control group.
The participants were primarily from public housing projects in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York and volunteered for a random lottery that offered an opportunity to receive a subsidy for a housing voucher that would enable them to move into an area of lower poverty. The other families that were part of the control group did not receive similar assistance. All participants in the program had to give blood samples to test for diabetes and get their heights and weights measured.
According to Professor Yens Ludwig of the University of Chicago, and one of the co-authors of the study, the research shows that women who move from high poverty to low poverty areas will have the same benefit of a reduction in the risk of contracting diabetes as the medical treatments that were explicitly designed to have the same effect.
The importance of the research will be in finding out what elements of the social and physical environment play a role in reducing obesity and the risk of diabetes. Ludwig pointed out that some of these elements could be greater access to better grocery stores, greater opportunities for physical activities, a reduction in feelings of psychological stress and an increase in feelings of safety. Gaps in obesity and diabetes that are prevalent across race and ethnic lines in the United States could also be explained by the results of the study. However, researchers were quick to point out that previous studies that did not focus on health but changes in the neighborhood environment could be responsible for the health benefits rather the act of moving itself.
Robert Whittacker, a professor of public health and pediatrics at Temple University in Philadelphia, says that the research indicates that investing and making changes in low-income neighborhoods combined with interventions in health care could reverse the trends in increased obesity and diabetes. He pointed out that this study is an important piece of evidence that demonstrates that health care alone is not enough to keep people healthy; the study indicates that improving the environment of low-income families can have an equally important impact on reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases for these families.
Researchers involved in the study revealed there was some bias in the participants who volunteered as more than 90% of the families involved in the study were headed by a black or Hispanic woman. Further investigations would be required to determine what types of interventions in neighborhoods that housed these types of families would be needed to improve health.