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Obesity Epidemic, Low Income And Mental Health Problems

Posted Nov 19 2012 7:21pm

From The Long Beach Business Journal…..

Health professionals agree that obesity is a growing epidemic affecting Long Beach residents and our nation as a whole, a situation that has shown to not only impact physical wellbeing but also mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of American adults are considered obese, meaning that these individuals are carrying an excessive amount of fat on their body relative to their lean body mass.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is the standard measure of obesity, and individuals with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese (see below for calculation).

Several studies over the past 15 years have shown a relationship between high rates of obesity, low-income or poverty and high rates of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety or other psychological issues. Obesity and its related public health issues are affecting populations on the local level in staggering numbers.

“All health departments started recognizing the pattern of obesity throughout the 1980s and ’90s,” Mitchell Kushner, MD, the public health officer for the City of Long Beach, said in an e-mail. “However, in the year 2000 the CDC started utilizing the term obesity epidemic, when over 280,000 annual deaths as a consequence of obesity were recorded. The epidemic has progressed dramatically over the last decade, and currently no state within the U.S has an obesity level less than 20 percent.”

Kushner confirmed that Long Beach has a childhood and adult obesity epidemic, having higher rates of both when compared to Los Angeles County. At the request of the Business Journal, Kushner used data from the most recent community health research assessment showing rates of childhood obesity, diabetes diagnosis and mental health hospitalizations to break down the top impacted areas for each by Long Beach zip code.

“Besides all the journal articles we have found linking these conditions, you will see a striking correlation here in Long Beach across the 11 zip codes in our city,” he said. According to Kushner, the top five zip codes with the highest incidence of childhood obesity are: 90804, 90805, 90813, 90806 and 90802. The top five for diabetes diagnosis are 90813, 90810, 90805, 90806 and 90804. The top five zip codes for mental illness hospitalizations are 90802, 90813, 90804, 90807 and 90805.

Three out of the top five zip codes among these three health issues are shared: 90804, 90806, 90813. In addition, four out of the five top zip codes for mental health and childhood obesity are shared: 90802, 90804, 90806 and 90813. “All these shared zip codes fall within designated medically under-served areas (MUA) and are considered low-income areas or areas with higher rates of poverty,” Kushner said. “Based on data from the health department’s community health assessment, conducted over the past year, you have found a correlation in comparing Long Beach zip codes and incidence of obesity, diabetes and mental health.”

To read the full story….. Click here

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