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Children in lower-income households more likely to be obese, have poor health habits

University of Michigan presents study showing connection between childhood weight and family income at American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Childhood obesity and the unhealthy behaviors that contribute to weight gain are more likely among children from lower-income households, according to a study by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center.

Results of the research were presented today at the American Heart Association 2011 Scientific Sessions.

Led by U-M researcher Taylor Eagle, the findings are based on analysis of socioeconomic status and body mass index of children in Massachusetts and comparisons between socioeconomic status and health-related behaviors of children in Michigan.

Researchers found that as household income declined, the percent of overweight children increased, as did the incidence of poor diet and exercise behaviors.

“There is a significant relationship between low h8ousehold income and poorer lifestyle habits,” says Eagle. “Understanding this relationship is critical to curbing the childhood obesity epidemic the U.S. faces today.”   

In Massachusetts communities where more than 20 percent of households were low income, the incidence of childhood obesity increased to as much as 35 percent to 45 percent. The research was based on height and weight screenings of 109,634 Massachusetts students in grades 1, 4, 7 and 10.

Similarly, in Michigan, as household income decreased, daily fried food consumption doubled, daily TV time tripled and vegetable consumption and exercise declined.

These findings were based on the reported habits of 999 sixth graders from four Michigan communities: Ann Arbor, Corunna, Detroit and Ypsilanti.

Michigan children involved in the study participate in Project Healthy Schools, a school-based program supported by communities and the U-M Cardiovascular Center to teach middle school students about healthy lifestyles, in hopes of reducing their future risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Eagle says understanding the varying causes of childhood obesity is necessary in devising a plan to help improve the country’s health.

“This research suggests that reducing childhood obesity in America will require education for each child and family, as well as community-wide collaborations offering better nutritional and recreational options,” he says.

Additional authors: Anne Sheetz, M.P.H., Roopa Gurm, M.S., Alan C. Woodward, M.D., Eva Kline-Rogers, M.S., R.N.,NP, Robert Leibowitz, Jean DuRussel-Weston, R.N., MPH, CHES, LaVaughn Palma-Davis, M.A., Susan Aaronson, M.A., RD, Catherine M. Fitzgerald, M.A., RD, Lindsey R. Mitchell, M.P.H., Bruce Rogers, B.S., Patricia Bruenger, B.A., CCRC, Katherine A. Skala, M.P.H., CHES, Caren Goldberg, M.D., Elizabeth A. Jackson, M.D., MPH, Steven R. Erickson, PharmD, and Kim A. Eagle, M.D.

Project Healthy Schools was cofounded by Kim A. Eagle, M.D. and LaVaughn Palma-Davis, M.A.

Project Healthy Schools sponsors: Allen Foundation, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation, Atkins Foundation, Borders, Inc., CareSource, Champions for Charity, Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan, Galens Foundation, Glancy Foundation, Googasian Family Foundation, Harvard Drug Group, Hewlett Foundation, Mardigian Foundation, Masco Corporation, NuStep, Pfizer Community, Pfizer Global Research & Development, S.I. Company, LLC., Thompson Foundation, University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, University of Michigan Health System, University of Michigan Medical School

Resources:
Project Healthy Schools, http://www.projecthealthyschools.org/
U-M Cardiovascular Center,www.med.umich.edu/cvc/

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