Monday, November 8, 2010

DC: Where race takes a toll on wellness

According to the Trust for America’s Health there are some pretty noteworthy health happenings in Washington, DC. 2007-2009 cumulative data ranks Washingtonians as 49th heaviest (or 2nd lightest) in the country. Despite this rather impressive ranking, however, The District of Columbia has the greatest health care costs associated with obesity compared to the rest of the states. Medical costs of obesity in DC were last recorded as $660 per person compared with a national average of $258.

There is also an unavoidable racial disparity present in DC. 31% of black Washingtonians are obese whereas just 8% of local white residents have BMI’s above 30. Recently, researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee presented a study which found that the obesity gap between blacks and whites in DC is the widest of 164 jurisdictions nationwide. The data, from 2001 through 2005, included information on more than 367,000 people. Researcher David Schlundt said education, income, culture and the urban environment might be factors behind the gap.

It seems like the nation’s capital should reflect the best of what’s to come for the rest of America, but the current statistics do not seem promising. A recent upswing of farmers markets, healthy food programs in schools, and community gardens (supported in part by Michelle Obama's Let’s Move! initiative) have provided lower income neighborhoods with greater access to nutritious options. Perhaps in the coming years this will help to minimize the black/white obesity gap that currently plagues the city.

Although many Washingtonians are on the right track to good health, we need to find ways to bring everyone up to the same standard of living.

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