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UCLA Seminar Discusses Social and Environmental Conditions Fueling Obesity Epidemic

UCLA Seminar Discusses Social and Environmental Conditions Fueling Obesity Epidemic

Obesity rates among California’s adult population are staggering, as seen in a recent study, Obesity in California, from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. This afternoon, the Center hosted a seminar to discuss some of the findings in the report and make the connection between social and environmental factors like safety and access to healthy foods and the rise in obesity rates.

The seminar, Environmental Factors Driving Rising Obesity in California, featured a presentation from two of the study’s authors, Research Scientist Joelle Wolstein and Senior Research Scientist Susan Babey. Here are some highlights from the presentation:

Obesity rates have risen dramatically since the late 1960s.

Close to a quarter of California adults are obese, and over a third are overweight. Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders all experience obesity at higher rates than Whites. Those with lower incomes are also more likely to be obese than those with higher incomes.

Physical activity, including walking, can dramatically reduce the risk of overweight and obesity.

Outdoor physical activity requires safe spaces to be active. In neighborhoods that are unsafe, rates of obesity and overweight are higher.

Through the study, researchers found that inability to access or afford healthy foods, unsafe neighborhoods, and lower neighborhood cohesion all increase a person’s odds of obesity. A main conclusion is that disparities in obesity are often the result of inequities in access to safe and healthy environments.

Reducing the obesity epidemic, particularly among communities of color, is one of CPEHN’s primary goals. In our report, The Landscape of Opportunity: Cultivating Health Equity in California, we offered a number of recommendations to address some of the social and environmental factors discussed during today’s seminar. These recommendations centered around working for more cohesion in our neighborhoods, prioritizing violence prevention, expanding spaces for physical activity, and expanding access to healthy foods.

Reducing obesity will take effort across multiple sectors, but having resources like those provided by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research will allow us to better develop strategies to accomplish this goal. 

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