Yet another health disparity – this one based on socioeconomic status and race.
One of the biggest environmental factors that affects childhood obesity is neighborhood safety. When was the last time you were afraid to walk outside? I remember working late one night and walking alone to my car, which was parked in the lot next to TD Garden where the Celtics and Bruins play in Boston. I heard a noise behind me and turned quickly – terrified to see a man rapidly approaching and less than an arms length away. I stopped and stared him dead in the eyes (can’t recall whether my fist was drawn back or not, it all happened so fast). But when I turned around, I actually frightened him!! He apologized and kept on moving. But my heart was pounding all the way home.
Imagine feeling this kind of terror in your own neighborhood?
Some of us take for granted that we can walk around the block or send our kids out to play and feel safe. There are children who grow up living in fear. One report states that black and Hispanic children were most likely to live in neighborhoods reported to be never or sometimes safe (see Figure).
Outdoor play is restricted if parents do not feel their neighborhood is safe. Lumeng, et al. published a paper in JAMA Pediatrics in 2006 that supports this hypothesis. The title of the paper is “Perception of the neighborhood as less safe was independently associated with an increased risk of overweight at the age of 7 years.” While I’ve embedded a link to the paper above, a great synopsis can be found here in a downloadable pdf format.
Kidsdata.org shows that just the perception that a neighborhood is not safe is enough to jeopardize health. Imagine what affect observing poverty and violence every day could have. I have already rendered my opinion on gun control (Blog 1/20/13) and its devastating effect on children, the poor and the underserved. But there are other blights that can make a neighborhood feel unsafe – too many to discuss here. And too many empty playgrounds are the result.
~ One drop of knowledge can ripple through an entire community