Obesity hits New York's poorest neighborhoods hardest

Wed Mar 3, 2010 6:59am EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - New York City's obesity rate has climbed in recent years, but with lower income neighborhoods hit hardest while wealthier areas like Manhattan's Upper East Side and Chelsea remain slim, a new study found.

Researchers from New York University and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, found between 2003 and 2007, the prevalence of obesity citywide increased to 22 percent from 20 percent but with large variations in neighborhoods.

That was still lower than national and statewide rates, which stood at roughly 27 percent and 25 percent around the same time.

In more affluent areas, like the Upper East Side, Chelsea and the West Village, obesity rates hovered around 8 percent across the period of the study that is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

In contrast, obesity was a more common and growing problem in other city neighborhoods, many of which are lower-income.

In 2003, only one neighborhood -- East Harlem -- had an obesity rate higher than 30 percent. By 2007, six neighborhoods had joined it -- three in the Bronx, the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, Rockaway in Queens and northern Staten Island.

Researcher Dr. Jennifer Black from the University of British Columbia said understanding neighborhood-by-neighborhood variations could help in efforts to combat obesity as obesity rates balloon across the United States.

"If we can figure out what types of neighborhood characteristics make it easier for people to make healthy choices, and what kinds of factors are barriers to good health, we will be able to come up with more effective interventions," Black told Reuters Health.

"(This may) help people maintain a healthy body weight and reduce their risks of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease."   Continued...

<p>A competitor prepares to go in front of judges at a casting call for the second season of the reality television programme "Dance Your Ass Off", during which overweight or obese contestants hope to lose weight by dancing, in New York December 18, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>