April 29, 2008
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Where people live increases their risk of obesity or diabetes and Contra Costa is among the top 10 at-risk counties in California, according to a new statewide report released today.
The landmark report, Designed for Disease: the Link Between Local Food Environments and Obesity and Diabetes, examined the correlation between the health of nearly 40,000 Californians and the mix of retail food outlets near their homes. Counties were ranked using a Retail Food Environment Index that compared the ratio of fast food and convenience markets to grocery stores that carry a wider selection of healthy food choices, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Contra Costa County health officials went one step further with their own study surveying stores in neighborhoods in Richmond and Concord's Monument Corridor areas, where residents are at a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and chronic disease than other Contra Costa residents. They found some neighborhoods overrun with fast-food and convenience stores and others lacking grocery outlets that sell healthy products such as produce and low fat dairy products, said Charlotte Dickson, Obesity and Diabetes Prevention Coordinator with Contra Costa Health Services' (CCHS) Community Wellness & Prevention Program.
"The new state report highlights the need to address access to healthy food, and our survey was a way for us to assess where to focus our efforts. The bottom line in Contra Costa is that 60% of adults and one in four elementary and high school children are overweight or obese, putting them at a higher risk of diabetes and other chronic disease. The costs of obesity are enormous in terms of personal suffering and treating these diseases is expensive, but we can prevent it and everyone has a role to play," Dickson said.
To increase access to healthy food choices in these neighborhoods, CCHS plans to work with community partners and residents in these areas to encourage and help stores to improve their offerings. Simple changes, such as carrying more fresh produce and low fat milk, can mean big improvements.
"We're trying to create healthier options in these stores so that a parent or grandparent who is running to the store can make a healthy dinner for their children or grandchildren," Dickson said.
CCHS conducted its neighborhood food store quality survey with the West County HEAL Collaborative and the Monument Community Partnership.
The state study, the first in California to make the direct connection between geographic location and obesity and diabetes risk, was produced by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, PolicyLink and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The full report is available on the CCPHA Web site: www.publichealthadvocacy.org
Information on the CCHS Richmond area survey is available at www.cchealth.org
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