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Where You Live, Not Just Lifestyle, May Contribute To Diabetes

This article is more than 9 years old.

A new study finds that black women in poor neighborhoods are at higher risk for diabetes regardless of how well-educated they are or how much money they earn.

The research suggests that reducing rates of type 2 diabetes isn't just a matter of educating people about good diet and exercise habits. Where they live is also a factor, according to study co-author Dr. Yvette Cozier, of the Boston University School of Public Health.

"Neighborhoods that are predominantly black have far fewer full-service supermarkets, for example, offering fresh produce and lean cuts of meats ... walkable space outside, safe playgrounds for children and other things that promote physical activity," said Cozier, an assistant professor of epidemiology.

The absence of those basic neighborhood amenities can take a toll on the health of people who live there, the researchers found, even among residents with higher incomes and more education than average. As a result, the study concludes, it can be difficult even for people in low-income neighborhoods to eat well and exercise simply because of where they live.

The lesson of this research, Cozier said, is that public health advocates should work with city planners and zoning boards to improve living conditions in poor neighborhoods. "If neighborhoods have an over-representation of fast food joints and liquor stores but no place to buy fruit when it's in season, these things impact health just as much as telling people that they need to be healthy," she said.

Type 2 diabetes afflicts an estimated 20.6 million people in the United States and disproportionately affects African-American women, who are twice as likely to have the disease as non-Hispanic whites.

The research, which studied more than 46,000 African-American women nationwide, appears online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

This program aired on February 8, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Sacha Pfeiffer Twitter Host, All Things Considered
Sacha Pfeiffer was formerly the host of WBUR's All Things Considered.

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