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Study: Obesity, Diabetes Rates Lower for Women Who Leave Poorer Areas

Rates of diabetes and severe obesity are about one-fifth lower for women who relocated to high-income communities from low-income areas compared with women who did not, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, CNN reports.

Study Details

In 1994, the Department of Housing and Urban Development implemented the Moving to Opportunity program in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City.

HUD partnered with local housing agencies to help single-mother households in low-income communities relocate to higher-income neighborhoods (MacMillan, CNN, 10/20).

Between 1994 and 1998, about 4,500 women with children randomly were assigned either to receive housing vouchers allowing them to move to higher-income neighborhoods or to a control group that did not receive the vouchers (Hellmich, USA Today, 10/20).

Researchers followed up with 3,186 women between 2008 and 2010, and they calculated participants' body mass index and took blood samples (CNN, 10/20).

Key Findings

Researchers found that the rate of extreme obesity was about 19% lower for women who moved to higher-income neighborhoods compared with those who remained in low-income areas.

Rates of diabetes for women who moved to higher-income neighborhoods were about 22% lower (Khan, Los Angeles Times, 10/20).


Robert Whitaker -- a study researcher, and a public health and pediatrics professor at Temple University in Philadelphia -- said the study strongly suggests that "where low-income families live can have a meaningful impact on their risk of chronic disease" (USA Today, 10/20).

Michael Rodriguez -- a professor of family medicine at UCLA who was not involved in the study -- said experts have not identified what characteristics of low-income environments can negatively affect health. However, he added that offering incentives to attract healthful grocery store options and creating safer public spaces could improve the health of residents of low-income areas (Los Angeles Times, 10/20).

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