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Designed for Disease: The Link Between Local Food Environments and Obesity and Diabetes

April 1, 2008

Policy Brief

Authors: Susan H. Babey, PhD, Allison L. Diamant, MD, MSHS, Theresa A. Hastert, Stefan Harvey, Harold Goldstein, Rebecca Flournoy, Rajni Banthia, Victor Rubin, Sarah Treuhaft

People living in neighborhoods crowded with fast-food and convenience stores but relatively few grocery or produce outlets are at significantly higher risk of suffering from obesity and diabetes.

The authors of this report correlated the responses of nearly 40,000 Californians surveyed in the 2005 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) with the Retail Food Environment Index (RFEI) to determine the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. The Retail Food Environment Index (RFEI) is a ratio of the total number of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores compared to grocery stores and produce vendors near a person's home.

The authors found that Californians living in communities with many fast food restaurants ­ rather than grocery stores and other outlets providing more nutritious choices ­ were more likely to have diabetes and/or be obese.

The authors also found that although low-income communities are often hit hardest by this phenomenon, the health correlation is seen across all geographic regions, income levels and ethnicities.

The report was authored by The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) and PolicyLink. The findings draw upon The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research's California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), a biennial statewide survey of more than 40,000 Californians used by legislators, policy makers, local health departments, state agencies, community organizations, advocacy groups, foundations, researchers, and many others.

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