Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Disparities in Access to Health Food Options in DC

Today, the Kaiser Family Foundation highlighted that disparities in access to healthy food options are contributing to the obesity epidemic in the city.

Kaiser Health Disparities Report: A Weekly Look At Race, Ethnicity And Health

Opinion | Lack of Healthy Food Options in Washington, D.C., Neighborhoods Cause of Obesity Disparity, Opinion Piece Says
[Nov 20, 2007]

"The lack of healthy [food] alternatives, coupled with the disproportionate variety of fried and fatty foods in the area, certainly contributes to the obesity rate" of residents in predominately black neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., Malcolm Woodland, a researcher and NIH LRP health disparities fellow, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece (Woodland, Washington Post, 11/18).

Earlier this month, Vanderbilt University researchers presented a study finding that the obesity gap between blacks and whites in Washington, D.C., is the widest of 164 jurisdictions nationwide. The data, from 2001 through 2005, included information on more than 367,000 people. Researchers found that in Washington, D.C., the obesity rate for blacks was 31%, compared with 8% for whites. Researcher David Schlundt said education, income, culture and the urban environment might be factors behind the gap (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 11/6).

Woodland writes that in some black neighborhoods in the district, "healthy food options are rare," yet research conducted at the Mount Sinai Medical Center "revealed that when blacks have healthy neighborhood food choices, their fruit and vegetable consumption increases more than that of any other racial group." That same research "concluded that for every full-service supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood, fruit and vegetable consumption among blacks in the surrounding area increased by 32%," Woodland adds.

"For varying reasons, such as wealth disparities and access to personal transportation, other researchers have also pointed out that the local food environment tends to influence the food choices of blacks and other people of color more than whites," Woodland writes. He concludes, "Until the unequal access to not only healthful food but also health insurance, medical practitioners and health facilities is truly addressed, the fat gap will continue to grow" (Washington Post, 11/18).