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Fixin' Healthcare

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Lifestyle Chronicles - Look Homeward Angel

Social environments influence behavior and behavior influences health status. Neighborhoods with high levels of social support have been found to play a role in crime and health problems relating to obesity among adults, including premature death and cardiovascular disease.

Deborah Cohen and her colleagues from the RAND Corporation identified neighborhoods in Los Angeles with the highest level of social support as those in which an above-average number of people surveyed said their neighborhood had the following characteristics: a close-knit community; adults who children look up to; people willing to help neighbors; neighbors who get along; adults who watch out to see that children are safe; neighbors who share the same values; adults who will take action if they see a child hanging out; adults who will do something if a youngster is defacing property with graffiti; and people who will scold a child showing disrespect.

Adolescents living in close-knit neighborhoods where adults provide social support are half as likely to be overweight or nearly overweight as other children. This was more important than the ethnic or racial make-up of the neighborhood, or the income of its residents. The RAND researchers suggested that new approaches to weight control might focus on fostering increased social interactions and more satisfying interpersonal relationships.

"Citing the potential for neighborhood groups to create a sports league or get a park for children to play in, Cohen said, together people can change their environment and make it healthy."

Amen, sister.

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