State health officials say they’ve always suspected that obesity in Arizona coincides with where people live and the value of their homes. Now they have proof.
A new study by the University of Washington found a direct correlation between obesity and ZIP codes and property values. It specifically showed that each $100,000 increase in the median price of a home in a given ZIP code resulted in a 2 percent decrease in obesity rates.
Frances Kaplan, manager of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Program for the Arizona Department of Health Services, said her agency aims some anti-obesity programs toward residents in areas with the lowest property values and, presumably, with the lowest income. She said that is based on understanding the link between poverty and being overweight.
In fact, the department specifically chose two Phoenix ZIP codes for a new program aimed at children ages 9 to 12 to try to get them to lead healthier lives.
“We’re really trying to reach people where they live, work or play,” she said.
Kaplan said the connection between income and obesity is linked to several factors.
For example, Kaplan said department staff members found grocery and convenience stores in the less affluent parts of a community are less likely to stock a full array of healthy food choices. The result, she said, is people end up buying what’s available — items Kaplan said are more likely to be convenient but less likely to be good choices.
But changing that, she conceded, is not simple because stores may be buying the items that reflect the choices of the people who shop there. Kaplan said health department workers are hoping to educate customers while trying to convince store owners to increase their choices.
However, Kaplan said it’s not entirely a question of what goes into the body.
“Residents in poor neighborhoods or low-income neighborhoods really have less opportunity to be physically active,” she said.
The reason: “They don’t live in safe neighborhoods,” making it less likely that residents will feel safe while walking, jogging or going to playgrounds.