Tuesday, November 8, 2011

U.S. Federal Innovation 33: Understanding the Geography of Obesity 

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
According to a public health experiment conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, "women encouraged to move with their families from a poor neighborhood to a more affluent one had lower rates of extreme obesity and diabetes 10 to 15 years later...". The research was conducted by Dr. Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago.

The research team randomly assigned approximately 4,500 women with children who lived in public housing in high-poverty areas in the mid-1990s into 3 groups. One experimental group received what were called "opportunity" vouchers: "rent-subsidy vouchers that were redeemable only if the families moved to a more affluent neighborhood." Women in this group were also given short-term counseling to help them find housing. The second experimental group received "...traditional rent-subsidy vouchers with no special restrictions on where they could live." Women in this group did not receive any extra counseling. The control group neither received vouchers nor counseling.

"The researchers found that the women receiving opportunity vouchers had lower rates of obesity and diabetes than the control group. The voucher group had 13% fewer women with a BMI of 35 or more ("very high" disease risk), 19% fewer with a BMI of 40 or more ("extremely high" disease risk) and 22% fewer with diabetes. The differences between the group receiving traditional vouchers and the control group were too small to prove they weren't due to chance."

Source: NIH Research Matters.

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