December 03, 2007

Calif. Dept. of Education Study Ties Obesity To Lack of Playspaces

LOS ANGELES, CA - Never has the link between poverty and child obesity been more apparent.

A new report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows that the richest cities with the most public open space have the lowest rates of obese children. By contrast, cities with larger low-income populations, such as Hawthorne, Lawndale, Carson and Gardena, have more overweight kids.

"Poverty is one of the determinants of obesity, there's no question about that for a whole bunch of reasons," said Dr. Jonathon Fielding, the county's director of public health and lead medical officer.

For the first time, the county used information on obesity rates from the California Department of Education and compared it to a number of factors that contribute to economic hardship, such as unemployment rates, education levels and households that earn less than the federal poverty line. The report also included the amount of park and recreation space within each of 128 cities in the greater Los Angeles area.

Read more about the study here.

Other tidbits from the article:

  • Manhattan Beach, one of the most affluent cities in the South Bay had only 4 percent of children who meet the criteria for obesity. It also had one of the highest ratios of park area per capita - 5.7 acres per 1,000 residents.
  • The city of Lawndale had one of the lowest ratios of park space - 0.6 acres per 1,000 residents - and one of the highest child-obesity rates of 27 percent.Lawndale officials hope to double the city's park space next year with the opening of the half-acre Hopper Park on 162nd Street, and officials have set aside $1 million for the purchase of more land in the future.
  • The county has no formal authority over what cities do, but officials made several recommendations: Create walkable and bikable pathways, establish safe routes to schools so that parents don't have to drive children, and recognize efforts by groups that support healthy lifestyles. They also suggested limiting the number of fast food restaurants in specific areas, and have schools offer healthier lunches and creative physical education.
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